The second book on my recent reading list is Made To Stick by Chip & Dan Heath.
I had read their book Switch earlier in the year and enjoyed it, so grabbing hold of their previous book made sense. To me, anyway.
Where Switch deals with what change is hard and what to do about overcoming the obstacles – both external and internal – in the way of change, Made To Stick looks at the apparently simple notion of why “some ideas take hold and others come unstuck”.
Of course, it’s not a simple notion and the Heath brothers take close to 300 pages to examine it.
Conveying ideas and getting them to make an impact – the longer the better, in most cases – is a vital component in the writer’s skill set. I approached this book, therefore, as a writer with a novel nearing completion as much as someone looking to launch a new business. The book rewards both approaches.
Like Switch, this book is written in a style that is engaging and easy to read. It is peppered, too, with great stories that are a treat to read and which easily convey the concepts discussed in a particular chapter.
The basic thesis of Made To Stick is carried in six chapters that follow the pleasing acronym of SUCCES(s). These break down ‘stickiness’ like this:
- S for Simple: find the core message to be conveyed
- U for Unexpected: grab and hold attention with surprise and interest
- C for Concrete: make abstract ideas concrete with a real and telling example
- C for Credible: help people believe through using authority or details they understand from experience
- E for Emotional: make people care
- S for Stories: people act on the back of inspirational stories
This just touches the surface of what the book covers. But if you want to know what makes an idea (including a business idea) stick or have a chance of longevity – and how to give your ideas the best chance to acquire such stickiness – this is a greatly rewarding read.
Many of the techniques described by Heath & Heath would be covered in a top rate creative writing course and I was fascinated to see the parallels between building a narrative (whether fiction or journalism) and developing a way to ensure that information is retained in the minds of an audience of potential customers or when we want to influence behaviour.
It should not be a surprise that the processes are so similar. After all, stories have long been used to carry history, myth, tenets of faith, and proscriptions of behaviour. The best stories – and their messages – endure in the same way that brand messages and propaganda and urban legends persist.
I would recommend reading both books pictured above (with the obligatory affiliate link to Amazon). The Heath Brothers also maintain a web site, which is well worth a visit. There are all kinds of download goodies available from their site, including great swathes of PDF versions of the material from their books.