Good Ideas Just Won’t Go Away

October 13, 2015

41hMTwhl6IL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_What do Ronald Reagan, Nordstrom and organ-harvesting thieves all have in common? They all had messages and ideas delivered to last.

This is what you’ll find in the most recent book I read, “Made To Stick,” by Chip and Dan Heath. I’m not going to tell you exactly how Ronald Reagan and kidney thieves play into this – you’ll have to read it. I will say it takes a lot of creativity, but I will tee it up for you.

Brothers Chip and Dan Heath have very different backgrounds and bring great perspectives. Dan co-founded a startup publishing company, and Chip is a grad-school professor at Stanford University. Their goal in “Made to Stick” is to answer: Why do some ideas succeed and others fail? Why do bad ideas sometimes win out in the social marketplace of ideas? How do you make an idea “sticky”? They use a casual narrative paired with top-notch research to develop their framework, and they break down models and case studies from marketing and advertising to teaching math to third graders to high-level physics concepts. The examples bring the steps to life using numerous scenarios and past “sticky” ideas, like the American Legacy Foundation’s Truth campaign, Southwest Airlines’ company intent and even the NBA’s rookie-orientation program.

The brothers have developed a set of steps meant to help create ideas and memorable messages that stick, and that will move the needle.

I’ll say again — read the book. But here’s a look into what you’ll learn:

  1. Simplicity
    • It’s not about “dumbing things down” but relentlessly prioritizing your message. An idea must be both simple and profound. The best lesson from the book: coping with “The Curse of Knowledge”
  2. Unexpectedness
    • Maintain interest and violate people’s expectations. Surprise won’t do it – you must generate interest and curiosity.
  3. Concreteness
    • We each have our own sets of knowledge and experience, so we all approach problems differently. For a great idea to stick, explain in terms of human actions and sensory information and with concrete images.
  4. Credibility
    • The best ideas use messages that help people test your idea for themselves. A quick example from the book is Ronald Reagan’s famous quote in 1980 — “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”. Without dragging in statistics, he posed a simple question for voters to test themselves.
  5. Emotional
    • Make people feel something. How do you turn a statistic or new product into an emotional response?
  6. Stories
    • The best way to get people to take action on our idea it to tell a story. Form a relationship with your audience and bring it home.

These are all great things to think about when you create or bring to life your next big idea. You don’t need a flannel shirt, man-bun or have your life fit into a MacBook Air to be a creative and create an idea that’s sticky. Sure, some of my favorite people look the part, but not many can walk the walk. One of the most important things I like to remember: Creativity is a muscle to be used and exercised. It’s a skill to continue studying and refining. And I think “Made to Stick” is a great read to get those juices flowing.