Are Your Ideas Sticky?

What a fabulous experience it was to hear Chip Heath, Stanford University Business School Professor and best-selling coauthor of Made to Stick speak at the NSA Speaker Palooza recently in San Francisco. Here's a summary of his valuable message.

What makes ideas stick? Think of John F. Kennedy's vision in 1961 for the United States to "put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade." This idea stuck and mobilized a nation. It embodied the six SUCCESS concepts:

SIMPLE. If you say ten things you say nothing. Have a high concept message. You know it's simple if it affects decisions.
UNEXPECTED. Be surprising. Get attention by breaking a pattern. Find a well accepted pattern and then break it.
CONCRETE. Find and use a concrete description. Which of the following introductions on the online dating service would stick with you? "Hey, are you looking for love?" or "Hand model turned doctor new to NYC." Most of the 1000 introductions Heath studied looked like the first example, yet the second statement is more concrete and descriptive.
CREDIBLE. Cite facts, testable credentials, and authorities. Consider the 1980 presidential election debate where Ronald Reagan closed with this statement, "Ask yourself, 'Am I better off today than I was four years ago?' If no, I would like to be your president." This statement allowed YOU to test it yourself and be the credible source. Find and use a testable credential.
EMOTIONAL. Emotion is the means to get people to care. For example, a public service campaign in Texas sought to decrease litter especially from 18-to-30-year-old truck driving males (referred to as Bubba). Rather than the standard "Give a hoot, don't pollute" message from an owl  (which Bubba likes to shoot) or "Fines for roadside litter start at $500," the successful campaign tapped into Texans' patriotic identity and the notion that you "Don't MESS with Texas." Litter dropped 73% in five years. Most important decisions such as patriotism, religion, and beliefs involve identity. Find and communicate the right identity.
STORIES. Stories are portable across time and borders. Spin in your own mind a springboard story. Find and use stories.

What is standing in the way of stickiness? The curse of knowledge. Drop complexity and abstraction. Instead use messages that are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and have stories. So Passionate Pursuers, make your ideas STICKY!

by Theresa M. Szczurek (


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)