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Live from InterACT: Chip Heath

InterACT BlogI am attending InterACT San Francisco 2007 this week and blogging live (or nearly live) from the sessions. This session is Chip Heath talking about his book "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die".

Chip's basic premise is that even good ideas have complications - making them persist and making them cross boundaries are hard. So consider ideas like "You only use 10% of your brain" - how come it stuck? It has been around for 80 years yet it is bogus. JFK's putting a man on the moon idea got everyone engaged - it was a very sticky idea. What can we learn from successful sticky ideas, good and bad, that you can use to push good ideas successfully? Chip and his brother came up with 6 things:

  • Simple
    • Choose between better and best to simplify ideas
    • Elegance means dropping things
    • A high concept pitch - "Die Hard on a bus" or "Lost alien befriends lonely boy to get home" - get lots of people to grasp the basic structure from many different perspectives
  • Unexpected
    • Common Sense is all the things that have stuck before so you have to highlight the differences - uncommon sense
    • Must emphasize the unexpected characteristics of your idea
    • Nordstroms for instance uses stories about things "Nordies" have done that are beyond the norms for customer service to show their commitment to unusually good customer service
  • Concrete
    • "No graffiti" was a concrete idea that the New York Transit Agency used to drive change and worked much better than generic improvement slogans and plans
    • The more specific and concrete your idea the better
  • Credible
    • The idea must be believable - people must believe change is possible
    • Chip told a story about someone who thinks business can benefit from being environmental but no-one believes him so he needs a very specific story that is extreme.
    • This is "the Sinatra test" - if you can make it here you can make it anywhere
    • Find the "Sinatra" test for your idea and prove it there
  • Emotional
    • People must care about the idea
    • For instance cleaning litter from roads in Texas
      • Litter was mostly from 18-30 year old truck driving males. They nicknamed this littering driver "Bubba"
      • So how to make "Bubba" care?
      • Campaign was the now famous "Don't mess with Texas" campaign using people 'Bubba' knew (like Dallas Cowboys Linemen and Country/Western stars) to make the point that littering was unpatriotic to Texas, something "Bubba" cared about.
      • 5 years resulted in an 81% reduction in litter!
    • Not about consequences but about identity
    • Focus on people's identify not on detailed consequences
  • Stories
    • Use springboard stories to get people engaged
    • Need engaging personal stories
    • For instance the recent Subway campaign, about one person who lost weight, works when the previous campaign about how healthy the sandwiches were did not

One of the main problems, and the reason there are not more sticky ideas, is the "curse of knowledge". It is hard to imagine that someone else does not know what you know and this makes the way you talk about your idea confusing.

Anyway, Chip was great and I think I am going to get the book and review it. You can find the full set of posts from InterACT in this category.

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