Mar 242011

Made Stick should be required reading for all learning professionals

Made Stick: September 13th, 2010 8:53 pm ET

made stickLenn Millbower

This article suggests that Made Stick should be required reading for all learning professionals.

In their 2007 book, Made Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath and Dan Heath shared their research on what makes some ideas memorable and others not.

The need to get our message to stick is of obvious concern to every trainer, teacher, and speaker. The Heath brothers list six attributes of a sticky message. Appropriately, the six are listed in an acronym they call the SUCCESs formulas.

Simple – Sticky ideas cut through the clutter of multiple points and qualifiers to deliver a message stripped to its core. For example, this Examiner often speaks to trainers, teachers, and speakers about the need to make a message emotional. Over time, I have found that the most effect way to prove this point is to say, “Logic proves, emotion moves.™” This simple statement rings true, and in four words, defines the whole need for Learnertainment®. As learning professionals, our job is to pare what we say down it it’s bare essence.

Unexpected – A message that fits expectations is often dismissed by the mind because there is nothing unique about it. On the other hand, a message that goes counter to the usual expectations, is much more memorable. The Heath brothers use the example of Jarad Fogle, who lost 245 pounds eating Subway sandwiches. The concept of losing weight while eating fast food is so memorable that it becomes memorable. If we want our ideas to stick, we learning professionals should present them in unexpected ways.

Concrete – Sticky leaning points are full of concrete images. The more specific the example, the more likely the brain will remember it. Where abstract truths are hard to remember, short, specific sayings stick. For example, stating the need to focus on the task at hand is nowhere as memorable as saying, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The former is general. The later is concrete. We will have better luck delivering our learning points if we deliver them in specific, concrete, images.

Credible – In order for an idea to stick, the idea has to be seen as credible. Authorities and celebrities can give an idea credibility. But more often, the credibility results because an idea that rings true to the listener. As learning professionals, we should present only messages that intuitively seem credible. Additionally, we should, in a non-egotistical way, present ourselves as experts on the subject matter.

Emotional – The Heath brothers’ state that we are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions. Messages that are logical may gain consensus. Messages that are emotional get remembered. Accordingly, we should make our learning points emotive.

Stories – Stories help us know how other people have responded in similar situations. Stories give us pithy morality lessons. Stories help us make sense of our world. Consequently, stories that demonstrate the truth of our lesson will deliver stickiness.

Through their research, the Heath brothers have given trainers, teachers, and speakers a road map for effective learning. Hopefully, for us too, it’ll stick.


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made stick, McDonald Sales and Marketing, LLC