In the book Made To Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath the authors do an excellent job of outlining ways to make concepts “stick.” Here I have transcribed the “villains” of stickiness from the back of the book. This is excellent to keep in mind…
VILLAINS OF STICKINESS
1. DON’T BURY THE LEAD – One of the worst things of knowing a lot or having a lot of information is that we are tempted to share it ALL. High school teachers will tell you that when students write research papers they include every unearthed fact, as if the quality is based on the data amassed rather than its purpose or clarity.
2. TENDENCY TO FOCUS ON THE PRESENTATION RATHER THAN ON THE MESSAGE – Public speakers naturally want to appear composed, charismatic and motivational. And certainly charisma will help a properly formed message stick better. But all the charisma in the world won’t help a dense unfocused speech.
3. DECISION PARALYSIS – the anxiety and irrationality that can emerge from excessive choice or ambiguous situations. To beat this, communicators have to do the hard work of uncovering the core. Lawyers must stress one or two points in their closing arguments, NOT 10.
4. THE CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE – the arch villain of sticky ideas. When the expert forgets what it’s like not to know something. So when you come to the point of sharing the answer, you will tend to communicate as if the audience were you. You’ll stress the scads of statistics that were pivotal in arriving at the answer, and then you will find that no one remembers them afterward. You’ll share the punch line, the over arching truth that emerged after months of analysis, and like the CEO who stresses “maximizing shareholder value” to his employees, no one will have a clue how the punch line relates to the day-to-day work. Sales managers think that once they have clicked though their Power Point showcasing their conclusions, they’ve successfully communicated their ideas. What they’ve done is shared data. If they are good speakers, they might even create a sense among their listeners that they are “decisive” or “managerial” or “motivational.” But the surprise will come when they realize that nothing they said had impact. They’ve shared data, but they haven’t created ideas that are useful and lasting. Nothing STUCK.
For an Idea to stick, for it to be lasting and useful it has to:
1. Make the audience pay attention
2. They must understand and remember it
5. Be able to act on it