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What Makes An Idea Stick?

My thanks for ACDA Northwest Division President-elect Dr. Gary Weidenaar for pointing me to the thinking of Chip and Dan Heath in their 2008 book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. For anyone interested in creativity and innovation, this book gives thought-provoking stories to back up the authors' thesis that "stickiness" may have a formula.
 
Their formula itself has a bit of "stickiness" to it in the tag SUCCESs: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Stories. In other words, good ideas can be stated simply, have an unexpected quality, are concrete, are built on credible material, stir the emotions, and have a story to tell. Don't be too quick to label this as too cute, because as you read through the stories and reflect on good ideas observed that indeed stick, these elements are most-likely part of the building blocks.
 
Some of these same themes run through the February 26, 2012, Sunday Review article ofThe New York Times entitled "True Innovation". This article is based on the forthcoming book by Jon Gertner The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. What Gertner describes as a "preference for usefulness", I find a parallel in the brothers Heath "concrete" and "credible" characteristics of "sticky" ideas.
 
It might be a good idea to read the first chapter of Made to Stick HERE for free.
on March 20, 2012 9:04am
Agree completely, Tim.  The brothers Heath hath handed us the wholehearted hanswers to sticky-memory's persistent questions.  Been using the "made to stick" ideas for some time now as part of the practice of Human Compatible Learning and Teaching and in the education of speakers and my personal political activities. Another recommendation for you and anyone else: Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson, Kean Professor of Psychology at Univerity of North Carolina and Director of the Positive Emotion and Psychophysiology Lab (PEPLAB). She is a leading investigator of positive emotions and their effects on human beings, and is the originator of the "broaden and build theory of positive emotions."  That theory not only underpins the SUCCES formula of the Heaths, I 'spect it underpins all highly successful, human-compatible learning and teaching that is 'sticky' over a lifetime. Be well, and keep up the stupendous work you are doing for the rest of us.
on March 20, 2012 9:11am
Thanks, Leon, for the recommendation of Positivity. It is now on my list. I particularly like your point that you are using the "sticky" idea with your personal political activities. I will take political thoughts through the filter of this theory.
on March 20, 2012 1:54pm
on March 20, 2012 4:58pm
Tim -
 
First, thanks for the credit, but it actually belongs to my wife, Marla - who borrowed the book from a co-worker and brought it home some 3 years ago.  I read her borrowed copy and promptly bought my own.  I have now given 3 away as gifts  . . .
 
The concepts you succinctly outlined above have literally altered the way I not only communicate ideas, but also altered how I teach and even rehearse.  The acronym SUCCES (no final s) in fact, is all the book covers - but each aspect is thoroughly (in an engaging, humorous way) explored with many, many examples given.
 
I found it so helpful - I developed a ppt presentation which I have now given various times for menc regional and state conferences - as well as for an arts advocacy group in WA.  I also have given it to my choral methods class for the past 3 years. 
 
I shared the ppt presentation with the authors, who said I had picked out their favorite parts of the book . . .
 
In fact, I used the framework to create my announcements for concert session 4 (at which I was presider) at last week's NWACDA conference.   Later that day, an attendee whom I didn't know came up and said, "I'd love to take a class with you - you seem like so much fun, if your introductions were any indication of how you teach!"
 
To Leon:  I ordered Positivity - thanks for pointing it out! 
 
Best,
Gary
on March 21, 2012 8:37am
For anyone still reading here, take a look at Dan Roam's presentations, and his approach to making presentations. This tracks well with "sticky" ideas:  http://www.danroam.com/