If you are like me you have sat in a darkened room many times listening to someone drone on about some topic that at first you thought might be interesting to you, but quite frankly you start drifting off and once the talk is over you don’t remember a thing about what the presentation was about or the point that was being made. Or maybe you have been in one of those company motivational speeches given by the CEO that leaves you feeling more flat than inspired. Well it is most likely that these people could have benefited from reading “Made to Stick” by Dan and Chip Heath, two brothers that decided to look into what makes ideas stick and memorable in peoples minds. Their research uncovered some interesting ways to make ideas sticky.
Sticky ideas are those ideas that have certain traits that allow us to recall the concept or meaning very easily. Dan and Chip describe them as ideas that are more like velcro in our minds, they attach themselves at many points in our neural network and as such it makes them more memorable and easier to recall later. They go on to outline what they call the SUCCESs steps to making an idea more sticky. SUCCESs steps refer to:
Keep the idea simple, people don’t remember many items at once, so get down to the core of your message
Adding something unexpected helps you remember it, it makes it more notable in your mind if you suddenly have a twist in your idea.
Make something tangible. Put the idea into the real world, remove abstraction.
Adding a authority or anti-authority to an idea gives it authenticity and makes it valuable
Bringing an emotional element to the idea makes it impact people at a deeper level
This is last in the list but really it is probably one of the most important elements of a sticky idea. Adding a story element makes the idea spreadable, easier to remember and start to take on a life of it’s own.
This list is a really nice summary of making ideas last and have value to those that come across them. Of course one of the immediate things that stands out to me is how these steps, are very applicable to not only presentations but also to marketing and branding efforts for companies looking to create a deeper connection to consumers. These steps are really about anything that needs to have a lasting impression on others. Whether that is employee orientation, a charity fund raiser, or a teacher giving a lesson on biology.
One final interesting part of the book didn’t get much attention but was worth mentioning was how to UN-stick an idea. Of course most people want to get ideas inside peoples heads. What to do when you want to change someones ideas, the example might be some bad publicity around a product that people now associate with the brand. Their suggestion is to make an even stickier idea to replace the current one. That might include making a better comparison with a positive spin, or redirecting the public’s mind towards a different enemy or goal.
Sticky ideas are valuable and creating idea virus’s or ways to communicate those ideas is a valuable skill to have. These suggested steps help get those messages out there and improve the chances of making your ideas stick. So turn up the lights go back and rethink your presentation or idea, with these concepts in mind, and this time you will more likely create an idea that will stick and have an audience not falling asleep in the dark.