Book Review: Made to Stick

Why Some Ideas Survive and Other Die

By Chip & Dan Heath

Do you know why urban legends stay around forever? Why we all know the story of the poor guy that meets a pretty girl in the hotel lounge and wakes up hours later missing his kidney? Why the story of Jared from Subway was such a great success? Chip and Dan Heath break down the things that make for sticky ideas in a way that becomes easy to apply in our own communications.

SUCCESs – Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Stories – this is the formula for creating ideas that stick. The brothers do a great job of offering several actionable methods to build better ideas, ones that will stick. They provide many real world examples as evidence of how these techniques indeed made ideas sticky, in some cases decades after they were original made.

One example that really captured me was about Jane Elliott, an elementary-school teacher in Iowa, who on April 5th, 1968, found herself trying to explain Martin Luther King’s death to her classroom of third-graders. She had to get them to understand what prejudice was in way that resonate with them so that hopefully they wouldn’t repeat the behavior in their own lives. I’m not going to tell you how she did it but it was impactful enough for Oprah to have her on her show more then two decades later. Not just to talk about it but to do it all over again.

Another concept that resonated with me on a personal level is the idea of the “Curse of Knowledge”. As someone neck deep in the very technical field of web design and user experience I’m acutely aware how easy it is to sling techno-jargon like a line cook slings hash at a greasy spoon diner. It’s easy to forget what it was like before knowing things. They explain how it’s not about dumbing things down for people, it’s about finding a universal language so that we can share ideas on complex subject.

The last thing I’ll mention is the concept of knowing what idea you’re actually selling. In other words it’s easy for company that sells 1/4″ drill bits to think that people are buying 1/4″ drill bits. What they’re really buying are 1/4″ holes. Sell the benefits of the benefits. People don’t buy products because they want products. They buy products because of what the product will do for them. This was such a transformational concept and if I gleaned nothing else would have been worth the price of the book.

But don’t stop here. There are so many other great concepts to be found in this book like the Commander’s Intent which you’re going to have to read the book to find out what’s so important about that and much more. Anyone that finds themselves having trouble trying to sell your ideas to others should read this book.

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Mike Donahue

Just a guy that's passionate about creating useful, usable and desirable experiences for all humans. I love nature and wildlife photography, it's my source of artistic expression and inner peace. I live and play in South Florida with my wife Nikki and our girls (dogs) Layla and Cassidy.

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