Have you ever had to sell people on an idea? Ever needed to get people to focus on a common goal? I know I do, even though the ideas and goals normally aren’t earth shattering. Made to Stick, as the cover says, explains “why some ideas survive and others die.”
The authors, Chip and Dan Heath, give six major factors that typically determine whether an idea will survive or not. The first, and most important factor, is keeping things simple. Duh. That was my first thought as I started reading the chapter. Then the examples started coming. Southwest’s core value of being “THE low fare airline.” It almost sounds too simple. Then an example of how this simple, yet core idea at Southwest translates to the day-to-day:
“Tracy from marketing comes into your office. She says her surveys indicate that the passengers might enjoy a light entree on the Houston to Las Vegas flight. All we offer is peanuts and she thinks a nice chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What do you say? . . .
You say, ‘Tracy, will adding that chicken caesar salad make us THE low-fare airline from Houston to Las Vegas? Because if it doesn’t help us become the unchallenged low-fare airline, we’re not serving any damn chicken salad.'”
The key with keeping ideas simple isn’t to dumb them down, rather it’s all about capturing the core idea. An example is when Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992. The former President’s campaign ran on the now famous mantra of “It’s the economy, stupid.” While Clinton was constantly tempted to get into endless policy debates, James Carville reminded him that winning the election hinged on sticking to the core idea of “It’s the economy, stupid.” Regardless of your politics, Clinton’s ’92 campaign was genius and to think it all revolved around four little words.
I believe that much frustration comes from people not being able to communicate their ideas in a way that people remember and latch onto. I know that I’m far too often left scratching my head wondering why a person or group of people didn’t buy into what I was telling them. Now I think I have a better understanding and intend to put to practice the principles taught in Made to Stick.
I’ll write about the other five factors that make ideas sticky in future posts. There’s too much good stuff to capture in one post.
P.S. Not only is Made to Stick a great book, but it comes with a great cover. Everyone who sees it immediately goes to touch the duct tape part of the cover. Very clever.