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Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Hardcover – January 2, 2007
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Starred Review. Unabashedly inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling The Tipping Point, the brothers Heath-Chip a professor at Stanford's business school, Dan a teacher and textbook publisher-offer an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Drawing extensively on psychosocial studies on memory, emotion and motivation, their study is couched in terms of "stickiness"-that is, the art of making ideas unforgettable. They start by relating the gruesome urban legend about a man who succumbs to a barroom flirtation only to wake up in a tub of ice, victim of an organ-harvesting ring. What makes such stories memorable and ensures their spread around the globe? The authors credit six key principles: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. (The initial letters spell out "success"-well, almost.) They illustrate these principles with a host of stories, some familiar (Kennedy's stirring call to "land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth" within a decade) and others very funny (Nora Ephron's anecdote of how her high school journalism teacher used a simple, embarrassing trick to teach her how not to "bury the lead"). Throughout the book, sidebars show how bland messages can be made intriguing. Fun to read and solidly researched, this book deserves a wide readership. (Jan. 16)
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The book is well structured according to the author's message template for making sticky messages. The SUCCES acronym is this template used throughout the rest of the book. The next six chapters contain one of the elements of the message template. After that is an epilogue which summaries the book and makes some closing remarks. The last part contains a small article which was added after the first release of Made to Stick.
The six chapters are for each of the elements of the SUCCES acronym: 1) Simple -- the point of the message needs to be simple and not buried deeply inside the message. 2) Unexpected -- When something unexpected happens in the message, a sudden change or so, then it will be easier to remember the message. 3) Concrete -- ideas ought to concrete with examples as most people are concrete thinkers and won't remember abstract ideas. 4) Credible -- the source of the idea and additional details can give an idea more credibility and making it easier to remember and accept. 5) Emotional -- trying to get an emotional reaction out of people based on a message makes it easier for people to remember. We want to be rational but we are emotional. 6) Stories -- Often good ideas and messages come in stories (with lots of concreteness and color). Formulating messages in stories will increase it's stickiness.
Each of the above chapters contains dozens of stories, examples of good and bad messages, and tips on how to improve them. Also each chapter contains a clinic in which they take a message and, using the theme of the chapter, they give two different variants of the same message and explain why one is better than the other.
All in all, I enjoyed reading Made to Stick. It was well written and I'll remember a lot of stories from the book as they were pretty... sticky. That said, while reading the book, there was no major Aha! moment, but instead if seemed to add words and concepts to things that I had already experienced. That also made it easy to accept what was written in Made to Stick. The book didn't dramatically change the way I create messages/ideas, but it did gave me a new thinking tool to use. I was going between 3 stars (does what it should do) and 4 stars (good and recommended). I decided to stick with 4 stars. Pretty good, especially for people who give training, are in marketing or in other ways need to make easy to remember -- sticky -- messages.
The Heath brothers are great writers and have written other books that are worth the read as well. Ideas can be powerful, as we've seen in elections, new products, and social issues. This book will help those ideas be shaped in a way that will stay with people.
An additional reason to read this book lies in its essence as a modern day "handbook of rhetoric" geared to current or aspiring managers, public policy analysts, journalists, designers, film directors and the like----namely those seeking to have their ideas be understood, remembered and have lasting impact.
Interestingly, the authors express in their introduction that "given its importance, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to this subject." Those who have the inclination to investigate this question further might consult works such as "The Ong Reader" that go into the historic emphases on dialectic vs. rhetoric and the latter's increasing importance today.
Fortunately, the Heath brothers cite such sources as Eric Havelock regarding the ancient oral tradition and memory. They mention "stories passed down by word of mouth" and the various aspects that make related ideas memorable. Using their "SUCCES" framework, the authors present many practical tips and examples. More specifically, ideas that stick are simple (S), unexpected (U), concrete (C), credible (C), emotional (E), and are associated with a story (S).
One might also examine this work along side "theories of communication" and consider the ways that the SUCCES factors correspond with the elements of classical rhetoric as described by Marshall and Eric McLuhan.
Look at this book for a "crash course" in learning an updated rhetoric for today (and for those who want a more comprehensive view also consult the other sources mentioned above to tie back to classic forms) for enlightening, entertaining, and moving to action.
Having promptly picked up the book, I started reading it.
While it is quite interesting and brings some well-chosen examples to the table, it didn't make me go "WOW, I never thought of that".
It is a reasonably well-written book and helps the reader put a presentation together by highlighting the elements that make a difference.