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Book Summary – Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Made to Stick - Book summary

Based on 10 years of study, the Heath brothers answer the question: Why do some ideas succeed while others die? This book provides a practical and systematic way to create ideas that are understood, remembered, and have a long-term impact. In this free Made to Stick summary, we’ll briefly outline the 6 principles to identify and create sticky ideas, and explain how to put it together to drive successful strategies.

The SUCCESs Principles

A “sticky idea” is one that is understandable, memorable, and actually changes perspectives or behaviours. Not all ideas are “stick-worthy”, though it is possible to systematically create sticky ideas, or to learn to spot ideas with potential.

After studying a wide range of ideas and how they are communicated, the Heath Brothers identified 6 principles (SUCCESs) that can be applied as a template or checklist to shape or test any idea for stickiness.

Made to Stick_6 SUCCESs principles

Here’s an overview of the SUCCESs principles.

1. Simplicity: Finding The Core

Simplicity is not just about using fewer words, shorter phrases or sound bites. It is about:
• Finding the essential core of our ideas; and
• Sharing it in a form of a compact idea

Simple = Core + Compact

For an idea to be compact, there must be a lot of meaning packed into a succinct message, e.g. the simple but powerful proverb “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Heath brothers outline several tools and techniques that you can use to create compact communications (e.g. using flags, high-concept pitch, analogies etc.).

2. Unexpectedness: Getting and Retaining Attention

There are 2 parts to this principle:
Get Attention through the emotion of Surprise
Keep Attention through the emotion of Interest

Do check out our full 9-page Made to Stick summary for details on effective techniques for creating surprise and sustaining interest.

3. Concreteness: Making Ideas Clear

Experts tend to get more abstract because they have so much knowledge, they tend to see the patterns and insights between details, rather than the concrete details per se. Abstract ideas are hard to understand and remember, and are open to different interpretation.

To help people understand and remember, we must make our ideas clear and concrete. Give a concrete context, provide memory hooks and create a “universal language” that everyone can speak fluently.

4. Credibility: Making Our Ideas Believable

People generally believe ideas under the influence of family, personal experiences, faith, or authorities. However we can also build credibility into our ideas, using both external and internal sources of credibility.  The Heath Brothers explain this in details, including how to use convincing details, statistics, the human-scale principle, Sinatra Test etc. to make our ideas believable.

5. Emotions: Getting People to Care

For people to take action, they first have to care. The book covers several techniques to make people care, such as focusing on the individual (not masses), using associations, appealing to self-interest, and appealing to identity.

6. Stories: Motivating People to Act

This involves 2 parts:
Simulation (knowledge on how to act); and
Inspiration (motivation to take action)

Find out from our complete book summary how you can help your audience to rehearse a scenario mentally in their minds, hence preparing them to take the desired actions.  You can also learn the right stories or plot to use to motivate them to take action.

Here’s a quick recap of the 6 SUCCESs principles:Made to Stick summary_SUCCESs principles
Do check out our complete 9-page Made to Stick summary, where we elaborate more on how to:

• Overcome obstacles and implement the SUCCESs principles in 2 stages: The Answer Stage and The Telling Others stage.

• Use SUCCESs to overcome 3 barriers to strategy including: The curse of knowledge, decision paralysis, and the lack of a common language.

Getting More From Made to Stick

If you love the ideas / tips in this article, do check out our full book summary bundle including a one-page infographic summary in pdf, a 9-page text summary in pdf, and a 20min audio summary in mp3

Made to Stick summary - book summary bundle

This book, Made to Stick: Why Some ideas Survive and Others Die, was the Heath brothers’ first book. It was an Amazon Top 10 Business Book for 2007, named the Best Business Book of the Year and spent 24 months on the BusinessWeek bestseller list. You can purchase the book here or visit the Heath brothers’ official website for more details and resources.

Want to read more from Chip Heath and Dan Heath? Do check out our Switch summary to learn strategies for change, and the Decisive summary to learn how you can make better decisions!

About the Authors of Made to Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die was written by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, focusing on courses about business strategy and organizations. He has consulted with clients such as Google, Gap and The Nature Conservancy.

Dan Heath is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, which supports social entrepreneurs. He previously worked as a researcher and case writer for Harvard Business School. In 1997, Dan cofounded an innovative publishing company called Thinkwell, which continues to produce a radically reinvented line of college textbooks. Dan has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the Plan II Honors Program from the University of Texas at Austin.

Made to Stick Quotes

“To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion.  We must relentlessly prioritize.”

“People are tempted to tell you everything, with perfect accuracy, right up front, when they should be giving you just enough info to be useful, then a little more, then a little more”.

“Unexpected ideas, by opening a knowledge gap, tease and flirt. They mark a big red X on something that needs to be discovered by does not necessarily tell you how to get there.”

“Trying to teach an abstract principle without concrete foundations is like trying to start a house by building a roof in the air.”

“Stories are like flight simulators for the brain.”

“A strategy is, at its core, a guide to behaviour…A good strategy drives actions that differentiate the company and produce financial success.”

Click here to download Made to Stick book summary and infographic

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