Good Read: Made to Stick, Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

There are some books that are so full of useful insights and pithy way of approaching problems that the books themselves end up underscored by highlighter, with notes scored in the margins and crucial passages underlined in bold pen. These are the books which not only affect the way we think about things, but also way we act. They inspire us to try new ways of doing things. These books can be read and re-read with new fresh insights gleaned every time such is the richness of their content.

indexOne such book is Made to Stick. Written by the Heath brothers Chip and Dan, this book illustrates how important it is that a good idea is effectively packaged if it is to have a wider impact. It’s a really hard hitting, impactful book which digs into the detail of how to make your ideas effective. Dan Heath is an educational publisher and Chip Heath is a social science professor at Stanford and between them they combine their practical and theoretical knowledge to great effect.

The key emphases of this book are broken down into 6 major points:

1. Simplicity

The first point is simplicity. The secret here is to reduce your message to its essentials without reducing it to a meaningless soundbite, to distil your message to its most powerful, most meaning-rich format.

2. Unexpected

Like a good punchline, creating a memorable message can gain a lot from utilizing the unexpected. This shock tactic ensures that your message remains in the memory. One way of thinking about this process so far is: find your core message. Think about a counterintuitive way of presenting this message. What are the potentially surprising implications of your message?

3. Concreteness

The third key factor in creating a ‘sticky’ idea, concreteness. This is is when you describe your idea in terms that are tangible or in such a way that they can almost be felt by the senses. ‘V8 Engine’ is concrete. ‘High performance’ is not.

4. Credibility

What is it that makes an idea credible. To make your idea credible you can reference experts or other authorities, you can use demonstrable facts. You can also use your proven experience in a given arena. The point of this is to add weight to your argument so that your message is more than simply a catchy phrase.

5. Emotional

The aim of this point is not to make people cry or fel sad, but rather to give them a reason to care about what you are saying. The secret here is to use the power of associations to link together something which people do care about with something they don’t. It’s also important to emphasize the benefits of your idea as much as its features. An example of this used is swapping ‘best seed’ for ‘best lawn’, which is what the consumer really cares about. Connect your message with the self-interest of your audience.

6. Story

The story has been used by humans to explore and explain the world around them since before recorded history. There’s a reason for this. Embedding your message within a narrative is a very powerful method of ensuring that your message stays in people’s minds.


This is a really rewarding book with immediately practicable insights which can be used on a daily basis. If you haven’t already read this pick it up and see how it can enrich your message. If you’ve read it before, have a look through your old notes and see if there are any areas you can improve.



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