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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”? “Made to Stick” provides a practical and systematic way to create ideas that are understood, remembered, and have a long-term impact. In this summary, we’ll briefly outline the 6 principles to identifying and creating sticky ideas, and explain how to put it together to drive successful strategies.

Do get our full book summary bundle  or read the book for tons for powerful examples and specific tips on how to create sticky messages!

Made to Stick summary - book summary bundleA 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.

The SUCCESs Principles

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

The book also addresses barriers to application and how to overcome them with the SUCCESs principles:


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.). Get more details from our full 9-page book summary or read the book.


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

In the book, the authors elaborate on effective techniques that can be used to create surprise and sustain interest e.g. using mysteries, the gap theory etc.


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 (more details in our complete Made to Stick summary / the book).


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.

Review the SUCCESs principles easily with our book summary & infographic!


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.


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

Find out from the book/ 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

Putting it Together: Implementing “Made to Stick” principles

To get your message across effectively, use the SUCCESs principles to help you to achieve a few objectives, in 2 stages:

1) The Answer Stage

Arrive at the idea you want to share => Simplicity

2) The Telling Others Stage

For an idea to stick, it must make the audience:
• Pay attention => Unexpectedness
• Understand and remember it => Concreteness
• Agree / believe => Credibility
• Care => Emotions
• Be able to act on it => Stories

Buy the book for more vivid examples and case studies!


Strategy is vital to any organization, yet more strategies are vague, academic and fail to drive action. In the book, the Heath brothers explain how to make strategy stick; in particular, they explain 3 key barriers to be overcome, and how you can use SUCCESs to help you do that. [You can get a detailed overview in our complete 9-page book summary.]

Made to Stick summary_overcome barriers

Barrier 1: The Curse of Knowledge

Instead of presenting strategy in abstract terms, use vivid, concrete stories to bring the company’s competitive advantage to life.

Barrier 2: Decision Paralysis

When there’s too much ambiguity or too many options, people get stuck with decision paralysis. Find the core and translate that into priorities for day-to-day decisions.

Barrier 3: Lack of a Common Language

To help everyone to understand the strategy clearly and in the same way, build it into the way your organization talks, so it can help to guide behaviour.

See these ideas come to live through real-life examples and case-studies. Buy the book online now!

If you love the ideas / tips in this article, do check out our full book summary bundle, our Made to Stick summary bundle or more examples of the SUCCESs principles in this article.

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Create more impact with your messages

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