Posts Tagged ‘Made to stick’

Find the hooks in your story say Heath brothers

Our recent feature of Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath promises some valuable guidance for nonprofit leaders if you don’t mind putting on your sales lens for a moment.

Credible ideas make people believe. Emotional ideas make people care. The right stories make people act. According to the Heath brothers, a story’s power is derived from two benefits: simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act). Both are geared toward generating action. Mental simulation—recreating events or sequences in your mind—works because people can’t imagine something without also thinking about doing it. According to the authors, mental simulation is not as good as actually doing something, but it’s the next best thing. How does mental simulation apply to sticky ideas? The right kind of story is, in effect, a simulation. Going back to the brothers’ Velcro Theory of Memory, the more hooks you put into your ideas, the better they’ll stick. Stories put knowledge into a framework that is more real, more true to our day-to-day lives. They get the audience ready to act.

The authors also make the point that you don’t always have to create sticky ideas. Spotting them is often easier and more useful. They use the story of Jared, the man who lost weight eating a diet of Subway sandwiches, as an example of an inspirational found story. What if nonprofits could count on their volunteers to be on the lookout for symbolic events or encounters that might inspire others in or outside of the organization? Spotting great ideas isn’t hard, but they are easy to overlook. However, there are story templates that have been proven effective, and learning them helps you spot those inspirational stories:

The Challenge Plot: The key element of a Challenge plot is that the obstacles seem daunting to the protagonist. The story of David and Goliath is the classic Challenge plot. Jared slimming down to 180 pounds is a Challenge plot. Challenge plots inspire us by appealing to our perseverance and courage. They make us want to work harder, take on new challenges and overcome obstacles. They inspire us to act.

The Connection Plot: Connection plots are about people who develop a relationship that bridges a gap—racial, class, ethnic, religious or demographic. The movie Titanic and the play Romeo and Juliet are classic Connection plots. Connection plots inspire us to help others, be more tolerant of others, work with others and love others. The authors offer this practical advice: If you’re telling a story at your organization’s Christmas party, it’s best to use the Connection plot; if you’re telling a story at the kickoff party for a new fundraising campaign, use the Challenge plot.

The Creativity Plot: The Creativity Plot involves someone making a mental breakthrough, solving a long-standing puzzle or attacking a problem in an innovative way. Creativity plots make us want to do something different, to be creative or to experiment with new approaches.

The goal of learning about these plots is not to invent new stories, but to be able to spot stories that have potential for your organization. You don’t have to make stories up, but you do need to know what you’re looking for so that when a good story presents itself, it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Stories can also beat the Curse of Knowledge. They embody most of the SUCCESs framework in that they are concrete; most of them also have emotional and unexpected elements. The hardest part about using stories is making sure that they are simple—that they reflect your core message. It’s not enough to just tell a great story; it has to reflect your mission.

Read more about Made to Stick by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, purchase this or one of our other Page to Practice™ executive summaries by visiting the CausePlanet summary store. Find out more about the Heath brothers and their books.

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Why successful ideas are sticky

Why do some ideas seem to circulate effortlessly while others are forgotten as soon as they are created? How can your organization improve its chances of creating an idea that will “stick?”

Authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath offer readers a simple formula for creating successful ideas: a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story (SUCCESs). The authors argue that creating sticky ideas is something that can be learned, regardless of how “naturally creative” you are.

By using the six traits of sticky ideas outlined in this book, Made to Stick, almost any idea can be made stickier—and a sticky idea is one that is more likely to make a difference.

Here are three ways you can make an idea sticky:

Simplicity: Being simple means more than saying something short. Instead, the goal is to create something both simple and profound, similar to a proverb. Simplicity means finding the essential core of your idea; it means excluding all other information and relentlessly prioritizing.

Unexpectedness: Using surprise is one way to get people to pay attention to your idea, but surprise doesn’t last. In order for your idea to last in the long run, you must create both interest and curiosity. And you engage people’s curiosity over the long haul by “opening gaps” in their knowledge—and then filling those gaps.

Concreteness: Sticky ideas are full of concrete images. Making your ideas concrete means explaining them in terms of human actions or through sensory information. Mission statements are usually so ambiguous that they are meaningless. Using concrete language ensures that your idea will mean the same thing to everyone in your audience.

Read the rest of the six traits and more about Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, purchase this summary by visiting the CausePlanet summary store. Learn more about the Heath brothers and their books at

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