Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

This book had been on my wish list for a while, but I never quite got around to buying it.  On the recommendation of Rob Walling, I finally got around to reading it, and I wish I had done so earlier: it's got lots of great advice on how to more effectively communicate an idea in a way that people will remember it.

The book revolves around a checklist for really sticky ideas: "SUCCESS"

  • Simplicity is about boiling your idea down to the core element.  The authors don't claim this is easy, but it is necessary in order to effectively get something across.
  • Unexpectedness gets your attention and makes you sit up and take notice.
  • Concrete: "sticks to your mind like crazy glue" provides you with something tangible, if not real, that you can picture.  "Improves memory retention 28%" is, on the other hand, very abstract.
  • Credibility is how we get people to believe our ideas, perhaps with an authority figure, or with details that make it more real.
  • Emotions are really important for convincing people - even those of us who want to believe we make rational, logical decisions
  • Stories are much easier to recall and pass along than a series of abstract facts.  Storytelling has been part of the human experience for thousands of years.  Going over a story in your mind also helps someone prepare to act.
That's the really brief version anyway, but each chapter is fairly rich in details and suggestions about the different ways each of these factors comes into play.  This book definitely passes the "business book test" in that way - you'd actually lose out on quite a bit by reading a summary rather than the full book.  Here area few quotes:
This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.
This point is visited several times, and it's an important one: once you know a lot about something, it's had to remember what it was like to not know all about it.  This can make it very difficult to communicate well with people who don't have all the background knowledge in their heads that you do:
One of the worst things about knowing a lot, or having access to a lot of information, is that we’re tempted to share it all.
I know I'm guilty of that - trying to shotgun blast people with a huge spray of information.  It's too much though, and people will forget all of it.  If on the other hand, you can craft a simple, memorable message that gets to the heart of what you are trying to pass on, it's much more likely to stay with people.

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