Monday, August 31, 2009

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas (and 1 Caution)

I'm hitting the speed reading button this week - a quick journey through some really good books from the past couple of years, by authors I have heard speak in person. First up: "Made to Stick", by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. It contains six principles that help you understand why some ideas survive - and others die. Chip Heath was one of the keynote speakers at the inaugural Church Solutions Expo in 2008. I keep returning to his work to remind me how to have SUCCESs in presenting ideas. They've got a new book coming out next year - can't wait to read it!

1. Simplicity – How do we find the essential cores of our ideas? To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.

2. Unexpectedness – How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity. We can engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time by systematically “opening gaps” in their knowledge-and then filling those gaps.

3. Concreteness – How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images because our brains are wired to remember concrete data. Speaking concretely is the only way to ensure that our idea will mean the same thing to everyone in our audience.

4. Credibility – How do we make people believe our ideas? Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves – a “try before you buy” philosophy for the world of ideas.

5. Emotions – How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something. We are wired to feel things for people, not abstractions. Sometimes the hard part is finding the right emotion to harness.

6. Stories – How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in t he physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.

7. Beware the Curse of Knowledge – The villain in this story is a natural psychological tendency that consistently confounds our ability to create ideas using these principles.

Looking for a good read on how to help transform the way you communicate ideas? This is a great place to start!

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