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Made to Stick: How to Make Your Ideas More Memorable April 10, 2010

Posted by Khuram in Made to Stick, [Books] Leadership & Change.

In the same vein as Malcom Gladwell’s bestselling book The Tipping Point, Made to Stick takes a historical perspective of products, ideas, myths, trends and movements which caught on with the masses, and explores what it is about each that “made them stick” in the consumers consciences, making each a success.

Dan, a consultant at Duke Corporate Education, wrote Made to Stick with his brother Chip, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. At Stanford, Chip teaches a “Making Ideas Stick” class, where he consistently finds the more polished and talented speakers are generally not the most likely to get their ideas across. Greater impact comes from less-trained speakers who make their point by telling stories or focusing on a single point rather than ten. Think Obama.

The greatest value in Made to Stick comes from learning how to get and keep people’s attention. The book offers plenty of examples from advertising to teaching, illustrating effective ways to communicate ideas.

While the text is highly entertaining, the core provides an understanding and dissection of ideas that don’t stick, due to the Curse of Knowledge – once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. They attribute this villain to:

  1. Getting lost in a sea of information – what journalists call burying the lead
  2. Focusing on the presentation instead of the message
  3. Decision paralysis, often the result of too many choices or ambiguous situations
  4. The critical need to bridge the gap between knowing the answer and being able to tell others effectively.

To help readers create a “sticky” message – an idea that is understood and remembered, and that creates a lasting impact – the Heaths developed the mnemonic SUCCESs: Simplify the message, which is sort of like boiling the Ten Commandments down to the Golden Rule to get at the core of your idea. Root the message in something Unexpected, to grab your audience’s attention. Use Concrete evidence. Be Credible. (Ask yourself, Will anyone believe me?) Tug at Emotions to make people care. And use Stories that prove change is possible. Is this as easy as it sounds? Of course not. Is it worth doing? Yes.

Made to Stick contains sound lessons for business and communication today. Reading it will force you to think about simplicity in what you ask for. You’ll polish your communication skills if you read Made to Stick twice: once for entertainment, and once again to focus on the core skill you’ll develop in creating ideas that stick.



1. Jon Pittman - April 11, 2010

Good summary, Khuram. The Heath brothers have also written a new book – Switch – about making change happen. It is in the same vein as Made to Stick – very entertaining but with a pretty powerful message.

How universal do you see the lessons in Made to Stick?

2. Khuram - April 11, 2010

Yes, I just finished reading Switch last week and loved it.

I find the lessons quite universal, particularly their point of view on story telling. First, stories are universal, crossing boundaries of language, culture and age. Second, they mirror human thought. All evidence from neurology and psychology leads to the conclusion that humans think in narrative structures. Concepts conveyed in story form – more than ideas explained with logic and analysis – imprint themselves naturally into human minds. Third, stories define who we are. Our sense of identity is forged by the stories we tell ourselves, the ones we come to believe and those we choose to dismiss. Finally, stories build and preserve a group’s sense of community. Stories align and motivate by portraying the world in vivid terms that build emotional connections among constituents, giving them a sense of shared purpose.

3. Mansi Thakkar - April 18, 2010

Hey Khuram – this book seems interesting! I’ve often wondered how I can make myself more effective at interviewing. This book seems like an interesting (perhaps unusual for the purpose) place to start.

4. Sara Beckman - April 18, 2010

Here’s some more on what we know about the role of stories in organizations according to Sole and Wilson, Harvard Graduate School Of Education, Storytelling in Organizations:

Stories are the most effective way to convey complex, multi-dimensional ideas supporting innovation and organizational change.*
* Share norms and values deriving from an organization’s past but potentially describing its future
* Develop trust and commitment communicating the competencies and commitments of oneself and others
* Share tacit knowledge an efficient exchange “that detonates understanding in the mind of the listener”
* Facilitate unlearning reshape perspectives in order to rethink the how and why of new opportunities
* Generate emotional connection to make knowledge “sticky”

This is why we believe that storytelling is such an important part of communicating customer and user needs throughout an organization. They bring customers alive for all those involved in creating solutions to deliver to the customers, and thus cause them to create more meaningful and appropriately targeted solutions.

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