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January 10, 2007

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects: Made to Stick

By: Jack @ 5:19 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Random House, January 2007, $24.95 Hardcover, 288 Pages, ISBN 1400064287
One of the perks about being in the book industry is meeting some really smart people. In November, at our Author Pow-Wow, I got to meet Dan Heath, one of the authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Not only is Dan personable, interesting and cool, but he's also brilliant. You'll know that the instant you pick up Made to Stick.
Dan, a consultant at Duke, and his brother Chip, a professor at Stanford Business School, came to realize that while their professional work looked different, the core of the work was the same. They were each trying to get at what makes ideas successful once they’re out into the world. So they teamed up to write Made to Stick. Borrowing Malcolm Gladwell's concept of "sticky" ideas, the Brothers Heath examined everything from urban legends to public health scares to elementary school teaching strategies to political campaigns. Made to Stick is the kind of book that breaks out of the traditional business book market and offers solid, useful information to all types of readers.
Dan and Chip know that there's not a simple formula for making an idea stick. What they care about is identifying what's common among sticky ideas. They found six principles that apply to all sticky ideas: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories. (Cleverly, they form an acronym for "success.")
"No special expertise is needed to apply these principles. There are no licensed stickologists. Moreover, many of the principles have a commonsense ring to them: Didn’t most of us already know the intuition that we should be 'simple' and 'use stories'? It’s not as though there's a powerful constituency for overcomplicated, lifeless prose."
I love the Heaths' straightforward yet elegant writing style. And the book has substance too. As you read, you will experience tons of 'lightbulb' moments, when you instantly recognize their ideas as true and immediately applicable. Here’s an example:
"So why aren't we deluged with brilliantly designed sticky ideas? Why is our life filled with more process memos than proverbs? Sadly, there is a villain in our story. The villain is a natural psychological tendency that consistently confounds our ability to create ideas using these principles. It's called the Curse of Knowledge."
They explain that the more we know about a subject, the less we're actually able to craft it into an idea that will stick. The Heaths offer strategies for defeating the Curse of Knowledge and other roadblocks to creating sticky ideas. And you'll have fun while learning about Curiosity Gaps, the Velcro Theory of Memory, and the Sinatra Test
So, make room on your bookshelf. Much like the subject it tackles, Made to Stick is magnetic, sticky. You're going to start seeing this book everywhere.