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.
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.
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.
The book also addresses barriers to application and how to overcome them with 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.). Get more details from our full 9-page book summary or read the book.
2. UNEXPECTEDNESS: GETTING AND RETAINING ATTENTION
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.
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 (more details in our complete Made to Stick summary / the book).
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 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.
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
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO STRATEGY
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.]
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.
Create more impact with your messages