About a year ago, I read Made To Stick and would put this book up there with one of the must reads for anyone that is desiring to communicate and propagate an idea. The two authors, Dan and Chip Heath, were both trying to figure out what caused ideas to stick in the world of business marketing (Chip Heath) and what made good teachers (Dan Heath). In their research, they discovered several concepts that were useful in making ideas and messages stick.
One of the main premises they mention is, “The Curse Of Knowledge”. Essentially, experts in a field have created a huge vocabulary and set of abstractions to facilitate their communication about a topic. When they are teaching it to someone new, they speak to them as someone that already is fully aware of what they are trying to say and therefore, there mechanism makes complete sense to them but looses their audience.
In order to over come this, they suggest 6 principles that follow the Acrostic: SUCCES [sic].
- Simple – The message should be a simple as possible and no simpler. Don’t try to boil the ocean or necessarily show all of the details. Give the 50,000 foot view of the message because when your audience doesn’t need to know all of the details. This can be a challenge with those that have the Curse Of Knowledge because they believe an over simplified view is inaccurate or even deceitful. The reality though is that the audience can’t understand the full view and you need to hook them first with a high level view that they can understand
- Unexpected – Secondly, the idea should be presented in a way that is unexpected. This concept is well known in speech writing – i.e. use a teaser. This grabs peoples attention and makes them want to pay attention to the rest.
- Credible – Third, the message should come from a credible source. They talk about various ways to get this credibility, one interesting way is to use the anti-authority. For example, the person with a tracheotomy who is telling you not to smoke.
- Concrete – Fourth, make the message as concrete as possible. The authors give several excellent examples on how to do this is a way that facilitates the audiences comprehension.
- Emotional – Fifth, engage the emotions in the message as much as possible. Emotional reactions creates a more memerable experience in how the brain is able to store information.
- Stories – Finally, use stories. I’ve discussed the importance of using stories quite a bit on this blog. The most fascinating conclusion that came from this book was the statement that stories are how we simulate reality. We listen to stories in a completely different way than we do facts and figures.
I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone and believe it to be one of the more enlightening books that I have read. That I can remember much of the book a year after reading it, should be a testament to their ability to follow their own advice.