Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.
Made to Stick - by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Made to Stick - by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Actually analyzing what makes certain ideas or stories more memorable than others! Fascinating. Apply this wisdom to your songs, bio/story, communication with fans, etc.

my notes

For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it's got to make the audience...
1. Pay attention (UNEXPECTED)
2. Understand and remember it (CONCRETE)
3. Agree / Believe (CREDIBLE)
4. Care (EMOTIONAL)
5. Be able to act on it. (STORY)


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*** SIMPLE
Good metaphors generate new perceptions, explanations, and inventions.

Disney calls its employees "cast members". The metaphor as cast members in a theatrical production is communicated consistently throughout the organization:
- Cast members don't interview for a job, they "audition for a role".
- When they are walking around the park, they are "onstage".
- People visiting Disney are "guests", not customers.
- Jobs are "performances", uniforms are "costumes".
This metaphor is very useful for Disney employees. Just by reading that description, above, you can predict how cast members should behave. (Example: can't be on break while in costume in public.) Street sweepers need to be trained in everything, since they are as visible as anyone.

Subway, on the other hand, calls its employees "sandwich artists", but that doesn't help one bit. Doesn't make clear expectation. And is wrong, because "artist" is about individual expression, and employees can't get creative with sandwiches.

If a message doesn't seem to translate into action, make it simpler and use concrete language.


*** UNEXPECTED
The most basic way to get someone's attention is to break a pattern.
Consistent stimulation makes people tune out. We become aware of things only when something changes.
(1) - identify the central message you need to communicate
(2) - what's counterintuitive or unexpected about the message
(3) - communicate your message in a way that breaks your audience's guessing machines. once broken, help them refine their machines.

Common sense is the enemy of sticky messages! When they sound like common sense, they float in one ear & out the other.
What sounds like common sense often isn't, so instead expose the parts of your message that are uncommon sense.

Journalism 101: Teacher had students write headline. Gave them all these facts, "Ken Peters, principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced that the entire faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead,... etc"
Most students rearranged those facts into a basic AP one-sentence headline. Finally the teacher said, "The lead to the story is 'THERE WILL BE NO SCHOOL ON THURSDAY!'"

It's not about regurgitating the facts, but about figuring out the point. Understand why it matters.
Point here being that students remembered that lesson for decades after because it was unexpected and simple.

Create suspense! The "AHA!" moment is much more powerful is preceded by a "HUH?" moment of creating a mystery that you're about to solve.
Create curiosity gaps : tell people just enough for them to realize the piece that's missing from their knowledge.

Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer questions and close open patterns. Story plays to this by doing the opposite : by posing questions and opening situations.
In a script, every scene should be a Turning Point : hook curiosity, what happens next?, how will it turn out? - the answer never arrives until the climax of the last act.

It's important to OPEN gaps before we close them.
Our tendency is to tell people the facts.
First, though, they must realize that they need these facts.
Highlight some specific knowledge that they're missing. Pose a question or puzzle that confronts people with a gap in their knowledge.
Challenge them to predict an outcome, which creates two knowledge gaps : what will happen? and was I right?
News does this : teases you with something that you didn't know, and didn't care about at all, until you found out that you didn't know it.

Instead of thinking, "What information do I need to convey?", think, "What questions do I want my audience to ask?"


*** CONCRETE
What the world needs is a lot more fables!
Aesop's ideas never would have lasted as "Aesop's Helpful Suggestions". ("Don't be bitter when you fail.")

The Nature Conservancy: instead of talking in terms of land area, it talked about "landscape" with unique environmentally precious features.
They avoided the trap of abstraction.
Messages can not be allowed to grow ambiguous.

"World class customer service" is abstract.
"Norstrom ironed their customer's shirt from another store" is concrete.

Concrete language helps people understand new concepts.
Abstraction is the luxury of the expert.
Novices crave concreteness, and cry out for an example.

Memory is like velcro. Your brain hosts loops. The more hooks an idea has, the better it will cling to memory.

The difference between an expert and a novice is the ability to think abstractly!
It's easy to lose awareness that we're talking like an expert.


*** CREDIBLE
Telling stories using real people is the most compelling way.

Delivery company, instead of saying, "We are fast and dependable" says, "We handled the release of the Harry Potter book." 'Nuff said!

Best of all : let people try out an idea on themselves, instead of just reading about someone else trying it.
(Especially when being fooled by something. Don't just say "people were fooled", actually fool them in the story-telling so they can feel it and understand.)


*** EMOTIONAL
When people are asked to think analytically, they actually stop thinking emotionally. (Asking someone to calculate charity amount made them give less because suddenly they were less emotional about it.)
Once we put on our analytical hat, we react to emotional appeals differently. We hinder our ability to feel.

If we want to make people care, we have to tap into the things they care about. But if everyone is tapping into the same thing, loses effectiveness. Find associations that are distinctive for our ideas.

Get self-interest into every headline you write.
Suggest to readers that here is something they want.
Spell out the benefit of the benefit.

Just hearing about benefits, in the abstract, wasn't enough to lure additional subscribers. It was only when people put themselves in the starring role that their interest grew.

You don't have to promise riches and sex appeal. It may be enough to promise reasonable benefits that people can *easily imagine* themselves enjoying.

Company offers employees $1000 bonus if they meet performance targets. Three ways of presenting it to them:
1. "Think of what $1000 means: down payment on new car, etc."
2. "Think of increased security of having $1000 in your bank."
3. "Think of what $1000 means: company recognizes how important you are. It doesn't spend money for nothing."
WHAT'S INTERESTING IS:
When people are asked what is most appealing to them, they say #3.
When people are asked what is most appealing to others, they say #1 and #2.
This single insight explains everything about the way incentives are structured in most large organizations.

Persuading someone to take a job:
#1 - Think about security this job provides. It will always be needed.
#2 - Think about visibility this job provides. Many people watching your performance.
#3 - Think about how rewarding it will be to work in such a central job and learn how the company really works.
Again, most people like #3 the best, but think others would like #1 or #2 the best.

A lot of us think everyone else is living in Maslow's Basement, while we're in the Penthouse.

In forming opinions, people seem to ask not "What's in it for me?", but rather, "What's in it for my group?"

Company tried to give firefighters a popcorn popper if they came to watch a security video. But from an identity point of view, that's worse than offering nothing at all, because a firefighter identity would say, "Firefighters aren't the type that need little gifts to watch a film on safety! We save lives! Shame on you for implying that I need a popcorn popper!"

To get people to care, tap into their sense of their own identities, like the "Don't Mess With Texas!" for littering.

Group wanted to preserve the tradition of Duo Piano music. But the Curse of Knowledge prevented them from expressing the reasons why it should be preserved. They can't just say "Preserve Duo Piano Music!" and expect anyone but them to care.

Keep asking "Why?" to remind us of the core values, core principles that underly our ideas.


*** STORIES
A story with built-in drama is much more interesting : bring people on the journey of mistake mystery and discovery to keep them interested, instead of just delivering the outcome. That way people can mentally test out how they would have handled the situation.

Mental practice alone produces two-thirds of the benefits of actual physical practice.
The right kind of story is effectively a simulation.

There are three basic plot types:

CHALLENGE PLOT
David and Goliath. Protagonist overcomes formidable challenge and succeeds.
Underdog. Rags to riches. Willpower over adversity.
The obstacles seem daunting.

CONNECTION PLOT
People who develop a relationship that bridges a gap - racial, class, ethnic, religious, demographic, or otherwise.
Inspire us in social ways. It's about our relationships with other people.

CREATIVITY PLOT
Involves someone making a mental breakthrough, solving a long-standing puzzle, tackling a problem in an innovative way.

A Springboard Story : lets people see how an existing problem might change. Tell people about possibilities.

When you hit listeners between the eyes, they respond by fighting back.
If you make an argument, you're implicitly asking them to evaluate your argument.
But with a story, you engage your audience.

Good messages must move from common sense to uncommon sense.
When people tell stories that only have the common sense, they're often remembering the entire journey in their heads, but only communicating the outcome.