“MADE TO STICK: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”
©2007, 2008 by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
You’ve gotta love a book that opens with one of the great urban legends of all time. A close look at how certain stories become urban legends and others don’t sets the tone for this very entertaining and useful book. Indeed, why do any bits of information become more memorable than others. It’s not the ‘what’ that determines whether we’ll remember and act on information; it’s the ‘how.’ How something is presented to our brains is a much bigger predictor of whether we’ll remember it, and how accurately.
The good news is, we don’t have to be creative geniuses to convey important but not very exciting ideas—warnings about the impact of sun exposure, pre-flight safety announcements, food pyramids—in ways that make them memorable. Creating ‘sticky ideas’ is a skill we can learn, and the Heath brothers are here to teach us.
They deconstruct an eclectic variety of information campaigns to show us how to construct our own ideas, using an acronym to help their teaching stick. Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional stories engage the brain’s memory circuits, hence the acronym SUCCESs.
In the epilogue, they share elements of a powerful framework that can make ideas useful and lasting. But it’s a framework that can be rendered useless by contributing to the ‘Curse of Knowledge.” It’ll make a lot more sense when you have the context the Heaths build throughout the book.
The book concludes with “Sticky Advice,” and “Make Ideas Stick: The Easy Reference Guide.” The authors’ commitment to clarity and story-telling is what makes this book so…well, so sticky. That and the several “clinics” they present, giving readers an opportunity to improve the stickiness of a real-life message, complete with crib notes.
If you’re still not sure you want to read this book, do these capture your imagination? “Flesh-eating bananas,” “soap opera accounting,” “the popcorn popper and political science,” “JFK vs Floyd Lee [army cook],” “the San Diego Zoo’s food-stealing pony.” All are phrases straight from the table of contents, which, for me, proves the point: Taking a spin with Chip and Dan Heath through Made to Stick is just plain fun.