Made to Stick, ch. 1 to 5

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Made to Stick, ch. 1 to 5 - Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck

a book by Chip & Dan Heath, Paperback, 2008
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Table of Contents

If not communicated artfully, even the most insightful, revolutionary and brilliant idea might be ignored and forgotten. This book is a manual on how to make ideas “stick”, so that they are understood and have a lasting impact, changing the audience’s opinions and / or behaviour.

While traditional communication methods focus on improving the delivery of the message, structuring our presentation in certain ways and repeating the key message again and again, this book looks into what traits make ideas sticky.

Sticky Ideas

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 2 - Simplicity

Chapter 3 - Unexpected

Chapter 4 - Concrete

Chapter 5 - Credible

Another model: Contagiousness

Tim Urban has another model in his The Story of Us series 1.

  • It's in Chapter 3
  • A story is like a virus. It can’t exist on its own—it requires a host. In the case of story viruses, a human host. So the first prerequisite for a fit story is that it’s good at binding to its host. A virus can invade an animal, but if it can’t convert that animal into its long-term home, it won’t make it.

    So that starts things off with a few necessary characteristics of a viable story virus:

    The story, once believed, needs to be able to drive the behavior of its host. So it should include:

    Human Superglue

    If natural selection was calling for bigger, stronger, meaner giants, then the stories that enhanced that trajectory would be the fittest of them all. Our biological evolution made us tribal to help glue us together. The right story would be our superglue.

    To make human superglue, you’ll need four ingredients to make a story so powerful it’ll alter the behavior of enough people via indoctrination, the believers will alter the behavior of the rest via intimidation.

    This creates a loop that can keep a story, once implanted, can control a tribe for centuries.

    Ingredient 1: Tribal Values

    A superglue story also jacks up the Us > Them values, centering around something greater than individual people that all believers should serve.

    Tribalism also generates peer pressure to conform and a fear of being labeled a secret member of Them and ostracized (or worse).

    Ingredient 2: A Queen Bee

    If you want people to act like ants or bees, give them a(n all powerful) queen. The queen bee can be a rightful ruler or a mythic figure or a natural wonder or a higher cause or a hallowed homeland. The important thing is that the queen bee is seen as more sacred than any form of primal fulfilment.

    Tribes split when they get too big for everyone in the tribe to have an intimate relationship with everybody else—but there’s no limit to the number of people who can have their own intimate relationship with the queen bee.

    Additionally, fear of the queen bee translates to censorship for any dissenters without a death wish.

    Ingredient 3: Identity Attachment

    A superglue story will almost always intertwine itself with the identity of its believers, giving otherwise total strangers a way to trust each other, which helped foster cooperation and trade.

    You know a superglue story is linked to its believers’ identities when you hear them use the story as a noun to describe themselves—when they call themselves “a [story]an” or “a [story]ist” or something like that.

    Identification with the story also causes people to protect the story like they’d protect their own children.

    Ingredient 4: A Cudgel

    A successful superglue story, usually be a jealous story that expressly forbids belief in other stories, with intolerance as a central value declaring that dissenters from within should be obliterated.

    Just as important as the size of a tribe’s outward-facing cudgel (the giant’s “military”) is the size of the one it points inward at its own members (the giant’s “police force”). One fights external threats—the other fights cancer.

    Other Books Pages


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