How to Make It Stick

28 01 2007

The always-awesome Guy Kawasaki says Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive While Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath could become the next pheonomenon for the business world.

The book, according to Kawasaki’s interview with the authors, expands on the “stickiness factor” idea from Malcolm Galdwell’s Tipping Point. Gladwell postulates that small, counter-intuitive factors make ideas particularly memorable. But according to the Heath brothers, an idea becomes sticky when it has some combination of six specific attributes:  

 JFK’s idea to “put a man on the moon in a decade” had all six of them:

  1. Simple A single, clear mission.
  2. Unexpected A man on the moon? It seemed like science fiction at the time.
  3. Concrete Success was defined so clearly—no one could quibble about man, moon, or decade.
  4. Credible This was the President of the U.S. talking.
  5. Emotional It appealed to the aspirations and pioneering instincts of an entire nation.
  6. Story An astronaut overcomes great obstacles to achieve an amazing goal.

If JFK had been a modern-day politician or CEO, he’d probably have said, “Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry, using our capacity for technological innovation to build a bridge towards humanity’s future.” That might have set a moon walk back fifteen years.

Of the six attributes, I find the last one fascinating. To be memorable, an idea has evoke a story, a narrative that leaves some sort of trace. I can see how the Man on the Moon example has that quality. It’s that extra something that enlarges the idea just enough to make it deeper and more substantial.  

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