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Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck Paperback – 7 Feb 2008
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"Their analysis is peppered with memorable stories, images and facts ... This book is a gift to anyone who needs to get a message across and make it stick" (New Statesman)
"This is great for anyone planning a speech or trying to get their message across at work" (Psychologies)
"The Heaths push beyond what sounds like it should work and explain why it actually does" (Time Magazine)
"... an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication." (Publishers Weekly)
"Smart, lively . . . such fun to read" (Saturday Guardian)
From the Back Cover
'Criminal gangs are drugging people and then stealing their kidneys' widely repeated urban myth
'The recommended daily allowance of iron for an adult is 14mg' widely forgotten scientific fact
In Made to Stick Chip and Dan Heath take the lid off one of the great mysteries of life: why it is that we have no difficulty at all in remembering the details of, say, a bogus scare story, and yet often struggle to recall information that may be vital to us. Isolating the six factors that make ideas 'sticky', they reveal, through compelling analysis and entertaining anecdotes, precisely how our minds absorb information and what we can all do to make sure our own ideas register with others.
'This book is a gift to anyone who needs to get a message across and make it stick' New StatesmanSee all Product description
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The book is about effective and persuasive communication. The Heath brothers start with the Q: ‘Why is it that some ideas are so memorable?’ A: Six key elements [SUCCES]: i) Simplicity (Keep it simple!) ii) Unexpectedness (Surprise = retention!) iii) Concreteness (Avoid abstract or ‘deep’ messages) iv) Credible (Is it believable?) v) Emotions (It is emotion, not reason that makes people act!) vi) Story (The most memorable messages are in the form of a story).
In analysing these elements they explain all kinds of interesting notions, such as ‘the curse of knowledge’ (p. 19). What would happen if you were to tap your finger to the rhythm of a well-known song without actually humming it? Would people be able to guess it? 50% of respondents said ‘Yes’. Incredibly, the actual number was 2.5%!! It is exactly the same when we try to communicate a message – we think others understand, but very often they don’t! (Moral: check that your students have really understood what you have told them or what they have to do. Get feedback as much as possible!)
Heath & Heath go on to stress the importance of ‘curiosity’ (pp. 84 – 87). This is the technique that soap operas, cinema trailers and some gifted presenters use to hook the readers/listeners’ interest. (Moral: Whether it is the contents of a text, or the lesson, it pays not to tell students everything up front. We can excite their curiosity even about mundane things.)
A surprising research finding on p. 89 is of great importance to us; Q: Which is better: consensus-building activities or ones encouraging heated debate? A: The latter! In a controlled study, 18% of students who had done a consensus-type activity chose to watch a short film about the topic, but the number rose to 45% among those who had engaged in a debate! (Moral: use more debates to get students worked up so they are motivated to find out more about the subject under discussion!)
The two brothers also give us a host of useful tips on how to make our presentations / articles interesting (which is of course of immense value for students / adult learners). Here are a few research-supported findings: a) avoid obscure language (p. 106) b) including details makes your argument more convincing (p. 139) c) ‘translate’ statistics down to the human scale (the human brain cannot make sense of huge numbers! – p. 144).
Above all however, remember to use stories. Human beings are wired for story. As somebody once so memorably put it: ‘Facts tell – stories sell!’
1. The useful information content is minimal and could be fitted on less than ten pages, in my opinion
2. The book suffers from repetition and that American writing style of endless cameos to illustrate the point. Yes, cameos can be helpful, but the amount of writing dedicated to examples far outweighs the simple explanation of its simple principles.
In summary, good basic principles that could comfortably fill a pamphlet but that have been massively padded out into a book.
My suggestion: buy a used copy
There is one thing I disagree with though; the book lists some conventional advice about making ideas stick, such as delivery, posture, etc; it then goes on to say that all of these techniques have some merit, apart from repetition and that repetition is a quality of a badly designed story or idea. I fundamentally disagree; repetition has been a cornerstone of so many of history's most memorable speeches, Shakespeare's writing and a classic and reliable technique in learning; repetition is incredibly important and if it is done right, can help students look at a topic from multiple perspectives and leverage long term memory.
Don't bash repetition!