Made to Stick – Reading Notes

This post is a summary of the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath and is a re-post from a previous blog that I maintained for several years before switching from Blogspot to WordPress.

I read Made to Stick in 2011 and took notes in a journal at the time. In 2016 I reviewed several notebooks as part of my project to write 1,000 words per day.

I’m resharing this now because the key principles explained in Made to Stick are also present in Chip Heath’s newer book (with co-author Karla Starr), Making Numbers Count. I’ll be sharing a review of Making Numbers Count later in the year.

Chapter 1 – Simple

  • Have one core message stated at the outset.
  • Avoid decision paralysis – don’t focus on all options.
  • The message should be compact – like proverbs.
  • Using existing knowledge, add new information with comparison (new movie ideas are compared to other movies).
  • Use metaphors.

Chapter 2 – Unexpected

  • Get people’s attention (surprise) and keep it (interest).
  • Expose the part of your message that is “uncommon sense” (surprise, unexpected, twist).
  • Create mystery to sustain attention (for example, wherever there are questions without obvious answers, unexpected journeys).
  • Curiosity is created whenever there is a knowledge gap.
  • Ideas should be provocative but not paralyzing.

Chapter 3 – Concrete

  • Life is not abstract.
  • Concrete language helps people, especially novices, understand new concepts.
  • Teachers take an existing schema and overlay a new layer of abstraction.
  • Concrete is memorable.
  • The more concrete the illustration, the better (more memorable). If an idea can connect with multiple areas of mental processing, the more “sticky” it will be.
  • Simulation is preferred to illustration.
  • Use props because they encourage brainstorming and comprehension.
  • Use specific examples rather than abstract statements.
  • “What the world needs is more fables.”

Chapter 4 – Credible

  • Anti-authority – tell stories using real people, situations, and examples.
  • Remember the power of details – specific details make a claim real and more believable.
  • Translate statistics into meaningful, understandable units (1 out of 3 people in the U.S. vs 100,000,000 people in the U.S.).

Chapter 5 – Emotional

  • Focus on the individual – not the population.
  • When presented with charitable needs in Africa, people who read statistics gave less than those who read about a specific child.
  • Feeling and calculating are processed differently with different behaviors.
  • Semantic stretch occurs when an idea is overused (the word “unique” is no longer special).
  • Get self-interest into every headline or presentation. Spell out the benefit of the benefit. 
  • WIIFY = What’s in it for you?
  • If people can imagine themselves doing something, they are more likely to actually do it.

Chapter 6 – Stories

  • Stories provide simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act).
  • Stories let the audience mentally test how they would react – the audience is not passive.
  • Simulating past events is more helpful than predicting outcomes.
  • Mental practice done when visualizing a task from start to finish improves performance significantly. 
  • Mental practice produced two-thirds of the benefits of actual physical practice.
  • Stores put knowledge into a framework that is life-life.
  • “We must fight against the temptation to skip directly to the ‘tips’ and leave out the story.”
  • Always be looking for stories to illustrate your content.
  • In a study, 63% of participants remembers stories, but only 5% statistics.

If you found this summary to be informative, I encourage you to buy the book and create your own notes.

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