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Understanding “sticky” ideas

When students across the State of Mississippi take standardized tests this month, their teachers are quietly biting their nails hoping that the concepts they’ve been working on all year have “stuck.”

Managers leave presentations, sales people conclude pitches and executives leave board meetings hoping that their ideas, products and strategy directions will “stick” with their listeners.

In the age of 24/7 cell phones, Blackberry, Twitter and cable news, anyone with an idea to share is up against a massive set of competition for the eyes, ears and attention of an ever-busier audience. Chip Heath and Dan Heath have set out to find out and teach why some ideas do “stick” and what each of us as communicators can do to make our ideas “stickier” — remembered, understood, with a lasting impact and the ability to change the opinions or behavior of the audience.

There are plenty of advice books about presentations. You know — eye contact, repetition, “tell what you’re gonna tell, tell them and then tell them what you told them.” But “Made to Stick” offers six principles for sticky ideas based on research:

1) Simple. Think proverbs, not sound bites.

2) Unexpectedness. Generate interest and curiosity so listeners stay connected by mentally working to fill in the gaps.

3) Concreteness. Fill your talk with concrete images based on human senses.

4) Credibility. Rather than drowning the audience in statistics, create ways for the listener to test the idea’s rightness.

5) Emotions. It’s easier to remember ideas that make us feel something.

6) Stories. Stories help us put ourselves into situations and are key to ensuring learning.

“Made to Stick” offers a troubleshooting section as well as special advice for managers and teachers on crafting “sticky” ideas. There’s even advice for counteracting “sticky” ideas that aren’t true. Using the principles in “Made to Stick,” we may all become more memorable whether at work, at home or, as one of my customers is using the book, in teaching Sunday School.

—Kay Gough

Bay Books, Bay St. Louis

Made to Stick;

Why some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

(Random House)



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