Part One: Introduction
Part Two: Sticky
Part Three: Unexpected
Part Four: Concrete
Part Five: Credible
Part Six: Emotional
Part Seven: Stories
Part Eight: Conclusion
The point: Sticky ideas are Simple. Simple = Core + Compact
I imagine for those who consider themselves communicators, the ideas in this book may not be new. However, great commu
nicators synthesize tons of old information and breathe fresh words into them; this book seems to do that to my soul.
When you read this book, you’re going to read TONS of examples. At times it may seem a bit repetitive. I agree, but each has its own distinct way of nuancing their point. In this case, the first part of making and idea stick is to make it simple.
Simple = dumbing down, right?
Wrong. The authors say simple is getting to the core of an idea.
They use the Army’s CI (Commander’s Intent) as an example. The CI is a statement about the end objective of a mission. With thousands of soldiers on a mission, it’s important to keep priorities in line. But how do you keep that many
people on the same mission with all of the unpredictable factors involved? The mission must have a core statement that everyone can adhere to. While this may seem to stifle other’s ability to improvise or create, the Heath’s say, “When people know the desired destination, they’re free to improvise, as needed, in arriving there.” Contrary to what some may think, revealing the end goal actually frees others to be more creative.
They suggest paying attention to jounalists, who convey all of the information of a story in the first paragraph. "Don't bury the lead," they say.
Remember Bill Clinton’s phrase in his first election? “It’s the economy, stupid.” This was selected over emphasizing the three main parts of his campaign. His advisor told him, “If you say three things, you don’t say anything.”
The Heath’s mention that having too many options for people t creates decision paralysis. They mention a study involving college students taking a final exam, whose grade would determine the future path of their career. One group of students would know the results before they left, the other group would have to wait a couple of days. During this time, a Hawaii trip was offered at a rock-bottom price. The students could purchase the trip, not purchase it, or pay an extra fee to lock in the price until a couple of days afterwards.
The same percentage of students bought the Hawaii trip whether they passed or failed! The differences was in when the two groups were told the results of the exam. Most of the group who waited for the results paid the extra fee, even though the percentages said that they would purchase the trip regardless of whether they passed (to celebrate!) or failed (to recuperate). The psychologists said “people can driven to irrational decisions by too much complexity and uncertainty.” If you are trying to find the core of an idea, you must not give many options, and better if you just give one.
It’s not enough to have the core of an idea, you have to share it, and that takes work too. How do you convey more information in such smallspace? How do we make them compact enough to stick? Consider the following example:
Look at the following letters for 10-15 seconds, turn away, and write down as many from memory as you can.
J FKFB INAT OUP SNA SAI RS
Go ahead, do it. Trust me.
Done? How many did you remember? Six or seven? Let’s try another experiment. I will give you the same set of letters, 10-15 seconds to look, then write them from memory again.
JFK FBI NATO UPS NASA IRS
How did you do? Better, right? Why did you remember the second set of letters better? Chip and Dan Heath say it is because you were drawing from experiences and memories you already have. The first example was recalling raw data, the second was concepts. They call them flags.
Every memorable proverb in history are always simple. Not only that, Cervantes said that a proverb is a short sentence drawn from long experience. Our brains have ton of prerecorded information stored; flags help us recall them more effectively.
This is what makes analogies so great. Have you ever heard someone try to explain the Trinity? What is the number one attempt of how to explain God's Truine nature? The egg? The sun? But both of those analogies are information we already have stored, right? (Both are also not the greatest examples of explaining the Trinity, but I digress).
The key in making simple ideas stick is to what the Heaths’ call having a generative analogy. It gives enough information up front to be useful, and as more memories are stored, you can give a little more, then a little more in the future. How did I teach fractions to my daughter? I used pie, of course!
The authors mention Southwest Airlines' motto to its employees: “We are THE Low-cost airline.” Does this deal with every single detail? No. But it does help them decided whether or not to offer chicken salad on flights from Vegas to Houston (which they said no, by the way, even when customers demanded it…they are THE low-fare airline).
I mean you HAVE to love the no baggage fee from them, right? They are THE low-fare airline. I can see them throwing the penalty flag right now on the commercial. Flags, right?
Like I said in my introduction, I am in youth ministry, so much of the lens I see this book through involves communicating to people. What fascinates me about this book is trying to intersect it with preaching/teaching. We know that students and adults don’t remember 5% of what we say after 2 hours. Do we just pray and hope for the best? “God will help them remember what needs remembered.” Sure, I agree, but as communicators, shouldn’t we always try to hone our craft? I mean, there are multiple learning styles and personalities, shouldn't we take that into consideration?
When you preach or teach, is it participatory? Do you have people just fill in blanks? Do you always have three points? The expositional preaching friends of mine might be going ballistic, and trust me, I’m not telling you to dumb down Scripture or your messages or whatever ideas you come up with, but I do want to challenge you to ask yourself, “What do I really want people to remember (and do) here? What is the core idea here?
I remember a teaching I did on the burning bush with some 5th and 6th graders a while back. While many seem to be familiar with the story, we tried to change it up a bit (the next chapter talks about sticky ideas being unpredictable), and we omitted all of the names of the characters and just told the story.
The idea I had was to help students ask the question, “God, do you hear us? Do you really care?” All throughout the story those questions kept popping on the screen. I’m not really sure how effective the teaching was (do any of us know, really?), but I do remember students in their small groups talking to their leaders about that very question, which is exactly what I had hoped for.
Look, I’m not a master communicator, but I am always trying to find ways to make things stick. Find the core of your message. Make it compact. Draw on flags that your audience already knows. Keep it simple.
NEXT: the 2nd part of making ideas stick, Unpredictability.