Sunday, October 24, 2010

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Here's another book review by Chris. Feel free to leave comments.
               Have you ever tried to teach a lesson plan and the point of the lesson was lost?  Have you ever tried to sell an idea to a group of colleagues at work and it didn’t go over so well?  In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath and Dan Heath discuss, in a reader friendly way, this phenomenon. How to cleverly get an idea across by following the “six principles of sticky ideas.” 

                Simple, the first of the six principles, is about finding the “Core” of the idea. Stickier ideas have less information.  For instance, Southwest Airlines in an attempt to coordinate the direction of thousands of employees can simplify their company’s mission into a brief phrase, “We are THE low-fare airline.”  A survey taken on a Southwest flights indicated that passengers would like a chicken Caesar salad on their flight. The marketing director approached the CEO about this possibility and what the answer boiled down to was, what made Southwest THE low-fare airline?  Obviously not serving the chicken Caesar salad.

                The second of the six principles is unexpected.  With this principle, the authors discuss two key questions “How do I get people’s attention?” and “How do I keep it?”  In the early 1990’s the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found that a typical bag of movie popcorn had 37 grams of saturated fat, when the recommended diet stands at 20 grams per day.  The CSPI debated how to get this information out there so it would stick in the minds of the public. They decided to call a press conference and stated, “A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!” Now that’s unexpected.

                The third principle is concrete.  It’s important to understand that concrete is for novices and abstract is for experts.  When trying to convey a message to employees or to a class, the message must be concrete.  When trying to build a new place, notice the difference between saying “We want to have the best passenger plane in the world” compared to “the 727 must seat 131 passengers, fly non-stop from Miami to NYC, and land on Runway 4-22 at La Guardia.”  It’s much more concrete and easier to understand the latter.

                Finding Credibility is the fourth principle.  When hearing something new, people tend to ask “Who’s behind the message?”  In order for the story to be believable there must be some kind of source/credibility behind it.  One example of a credible story was in the 1980’s when Wendy’s released the “Where’s the beef?” commercial.  This commercial stacked up the size of Wendy’s hamburgers compared to those of its competitors. The credibility lied in that consumers who purchased hamburgers from Wendy’s and its competitors had sized them up next to each other and Wendy’s came out on top by a good margin.

                The fifth principle is Emotional.  One way to get people to care about your ideas is to make them feel something.  It was found that Mother Teresa’s saying “If I look at the mass, I will never act.  If I look at the one, I will” was proven true for the majority of people. This is proven through the success of the Sponsor-a-Child campaigns.  When people were asked to donate to an organization that helps fight food shortages in Malawi, they were hesitant to give.  In contrast, when similar individuals were presented a story about a single young girl who is desperately poor, donations were twice as high. 

                The sixth and last principle of sticky ideas is Stories.  Everyone like stories, they provide knowledge about how to act and motivation to act.  Stories are like flight simulators for the brain and helps with problem solving, managing problems, and building skills.  One story that caught the world by surprise was the story of Jared and how he lost over 200 lbs on the Subway diet.  This story was initially turned down by the marketing director and actually started out on a regional Subway level. However, once the story leaked, it skyrocketed sales at Subway Restaurants and Jared continues to be an inspiration to many.

The authors conveyed these six principles in a way that is for young and old alike.  If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve tried to get an idea across so that it is remembered by all, this book is for you.  The short stories make this book an easy read and can assist anyone trying to convey an important message.

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