How to Communicate Messages that Stick

The following is a re-post from a couple of places about the book, Made to Stick. If you only read one book this year on organizational change, read this one.

Bob H

From the Heath Brothers’ website:

The Book

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is HardSince its release in 2007, Made to Stick has become popular with managers, marketers, teachers, ministers, entrepreneurs, and others who want to make their ideas stick. It’s been translated into Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Dutch, and 25 other languages. Made to Stick made the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists and was retired from the BusinessWeek list after a 24-month run. It was named to several “best of the year” lists and was selected as one of the best 100 business books of all time. Want to give the first chapter a read?

About Made to Stick

Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas-businessmen, educators, politicians, journalists, and others—struggle to make their ideas “stick.”

Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the Heath brothers reveal the anatomy of ideas that “stick” and explain sure-fire methods for making ideas stickier, such as violating schemas, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating “curiosity gaps.”

In this indispensable guide, we discover that “sticky” messages of all kinds—from the infamous “organ theft ring” hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a product vision statement from Sony-draw their power from the same six traits.

Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas. It’s a fast-paced tour of idea success stories (and failures)—the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher’s simulation that actually prevented prejudice . Provocative, eye-opening, and funny, Made to Stick shows us the principles of successful ideas at work—and how we can apply these rules to making our own messages “stick.”

The following is a re-post from Laura Boggess at Post by Laura Boggess at High Calling Blogs ( )

by Chip Heath, Dan Heath in Books

Post by Laura Boggess at High Calling Blogs (

Keep it simple, they say.

They are Chip and Dan Heath–the brothers and co-authors of our new book club selection, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. And by stick these boys know what they are talking about:

By “stick” we mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact—they change your audience’s opinions and behavior.

What writer or speaker doesn’t want to be understood? What photographer or artist wouldn’t want their work remembered? What business or spiritual leader wouldn’t want to change behavior? Who in the world doesn’t want their ideas to stick?

This is a book for everyone.

You might say the Heath boys are experts on understanding sticky ideas. They’ve been studying the things for over ten years. Along the way, they’ve identified six common traits of sticky ideas. We’ll be discussing each one as we go through the chapters of Made to Stick over the next six weeks.

Keep it simple, they say.

That’s the first principle of a sticky idea: Simplicity.

That’s just common sense, right? I mean, no one is going to remember a bunch of gobbledygook. Trouble is…keeping it simple is, well, not that simple.

Finding the Core

The first step in making an idea stick is to find the core of the idea, say the brothers Heath.

“Finding the core” means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence. To get to the core, we’ve got to weed out superfluous and tangential elements. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is weeding out ideas that may be really important but just aren’t the most important idea.

It’s all about prioritization, the authors say. What if I have three good ideas to communicate? What’s wrong with simply laying them down in a list, point by point?

No one will remember them, that’s what. Too many points and you run the risk of burying the lead, the authors say.

Burying the Lead

A good news reporter recognizes the importance of finding the core idea of a story. News seekers don’t want to have to search a sea of words to find what’s happening in their world.

…if finding a good lead makes everything else easy, why would a journalist ever fail to come up with one? A common mistake reporters make is that they get so steeped in the details that they fail to see the message’s core—what readers will find important or interesting…“Burying the lead” occurs when the journalist lets the most important element of the story slip too far down in the story structure.

That is what will happen to our message, the authors say, unless we prioritize. If we have too many competing ideas, none of what we say will stick.

But how do we communicate complexities and prioritize our core idea? By maximizing the meaning of our message concisely.

A Bird in the Hand

One way to get our message across succinctly is to capitalize on the existing memory terrain of our audience. Heath and Heath say two effective ways of doing this are to use proverbs and generative metaphors.

Generative metaphors and proverbs both derive their power from a clever substitution: They substitute something easy to think about for something difficult. The proverb “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush” gives us a tangible, easily processed statement that we can use for guidance in complex, emotionally fraught situations…Proverbs are the Holy Grail of simplicity. Coming up with a short, compact phrase is easy…On the other hand, coming up with a profound compact phrase is incredibly difficult.

Stick It to ‘Em

The brothers Heath say that finding the core idea is step one of two  in making an idea stick. Step two is sharing the core. That’s what the rest of the book is about.

So now I know that if I want my message to be sticky, I must keep it simple. Keeping it simple means more than keeping it short. I have to pack a lot of meaning into a little bit of messaging. As writer, this means finding the core of my idea and staying focused on that one message. It means using metaphors and proverbs that are meaningful to drive that point home.

What does keeping it simple it mean to you in your particular role?

Laura Boggess’ Made to Stick posts:

What Sticks?



Concrete: You Can Walk Around On It

Unexpected Journey


Posts by Laura Boggess.

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