Made to Stick, why some ideas take hold and other come unstuck by Chip and Dan Heath

To make ideas stick, (Sticky = understandable, memorable, effective in changing thought or behavior)

first, find the core of our message, then apply the SUCCESS principle:

1. Simple
2. Unexpected (so people pay attention)
3. Concrete (understand and remember)
4. Credible (believe and agree)
5. Emotional (care)
6. Stories (act)

The villain is the curse of knowledge. When the expert tries to explain to the layperson, they include too much detail and are quick to assume that people will understand them.


1. Find the core

Find the core of the message. Don’t bury the lead. In newspaper articles, the lead appears first, and the details come later on.

2. Share the core

To compact the complex into a core message: (1) use what’s there (analogy), such as an existing schema. For example, you can say that a pomelo is like a grapefruit. (2) use generative analogies. Some analogies are so good, we use the analogy to determine what we should do. Disney employees are supposed to act like “cast members”. So, does a sweeper take breaks? No, because a sweeper who is working in the park is on stage, and actors on stage don’t take breaks.


1. Get attention: surprise

To get attention, we have to break someone’s schema, then provide an answer that is relevant to our core message.

2. Hold attention: interest

To keep people attentive, create a mystery by highlighting gaps in audience’s knowledge.


1. Help people understand and remember

Move away from the abstract to the concrete. Abstractness is the luxury of the expert. Put people into the story. Use the Velcro theory of memory, engage as many senses as possible.

2. Help people coordinate

Set common goals in tangible terms so everyone can relate to it. Our plan will land on runway 4-22.


1. External credibility

Three authorities: expert, celebrity and antiauthority (the everyman).

2. Internal credibility.

Use details. We all know that liars should add details to make themselves more believable.

Make statistic accessible by humanizing them or dramatizing them. People should remember the relationship rather than the number. E.g, the world’s nuclear arsenal has grown alarmingly. To dramatize the demonstration, BBs were poured into a bucket for each warhead on earth. This works because the senses were engaged, it was unexpected, and the message was coherent, (BB’s are weapons just like nuclear arms)

Use testable credentials, encourage the person to see for himself.


Beliefs are too intellectual, they are insufficient for action. People need to care before they act. Emotions help people to care.

1. Use the Mother Teresa principle. Appeal to the one than to the masses

2. Use the power of association. Words have emotions but be wary of faddish words that lose their punch.

3. Appeal to self interest, and to higher motives like self actualization and learning.

4. Appeal to identity. This is the person I would like to be. What would such a person do?


Get people to act.

1. Stories as simulation (tell people how to act)

2. Stories as inspiration (energy to act)

Challenge plots inspire us to act. These are the rags and riches, david and goliath type stories.

Connection plots make us want to help others, be more tolerant, love others. These are about people who develop a relationship that bridges a gap. An example would be Romeo and Juliet.

Creativity plots inspire us to do something different and creative.  Anything from Macgyver qualifies.


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