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What 6 things make an idea “sticky”?

 

In their excellent book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip and Dan Heath lay out 6 principles that are universally found in ideas that survive and resonate with people:

1) Simplicity:

“Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.”

2) Unexpectedness:

“For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity. How do you keep students engaged during the forty-eighth history class of the year? We can engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time by systematically “opening gaps” in their knowledge—and then filling those gaps.

3) Concreteness:

“How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information… Speaking concretely is the only way to ensure that our idea will mean the same thing to everyone in our audience.

4) Credibility:

“Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves—a ‘try before you buy’ philosophy for the world of ideas… In the sole U.S. presidential debate in 1980 between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, Reagan could have cited innumerable statistics demonstrating the sluggishness of the economy. Instead, he asked a simple question that allowed voters to test for themselves: ‘Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today than you were four years ago.’

5) Emotions:

How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something… We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions.

6) Stories:

“Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.

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About Eric Barker