Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Made to Stick Stuck With Me

Although I have a huge backlog of "movie review" posts to share with you as a result of my recent Netflix binge, I thought I would mix it up today and write about a book I read not too long ago. I buy lots of nerdy business books that I would not dare tell you about for fear that you would finally comprehend what I huge dork I really am, but this latest one was different. Actually, you've probably already read it or have at least heard about it, since it's been on just about every best-seller list there is for the past year. The book is Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and I personally don't consider it a business book--its topic should concern everyone: communication.

The book sucks you in immediately, with a creepy story about a business traveler who wakes up one morning to find himself submerged in a bathtub of ice... with one less kidney. What? You've heard that one before? That's exactly the point of the book. Why do some stories, some urban legends, some slogans, and some advertisements stand the test of time, whereas others drift out of your memory before nary an hour has passed?

The brothers Heath chalk SUCCESsful communication up to six factors; memorable messages are usually always Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and can be told as Stories. The authors also explain why it's so easy to fall into the trap of making boring PowerPoint presentations or speeches. And why sometimes sticky ideas have a hard time making it past the unimaginative minds in corporate America. You know the famous and highly successful "Jared" commercials for Subway? They almost got the kibosh from The Man.

Below is an interesting clip from The Today Show on the subject of sticky ideas... the Made to Stick authors are interviewed a few minutes into it:

Full disclosure is warranted here: Dan Heath was in the graduate class behind me in business school. I only met him once, but for ninety-one minutes in 2003, we shared a life-changing experience. We (and some mutual friends) saw one of the best movies of all time, Old School, on its opening night. If that is not a lifetime bond, I don't know what is.

Anyway, the book is great, and you should read it. Whether you are trying to communicate ideas at work, to your children, in your community, or to your spouse, you will benefit from the witty wisdom in Made to Stick. Some of the stories it includes are simply fascinating, and the advice it doles out is actionable. I have about ten bazillion sticky (pun intended) notes attached to several pages, a sure sign of an excellent and useful read.

If you want to get a small taste of the book before buying the whole thing, it was announced just yesterday that Random House is offering the first-ever chapter download of one of its titles... and the lucky test subject is Made to Stick. If you want to check out one of its chapters for $2.99, you can do so here.

And finally, if you are intrigued by the ideas in the book, be sure to check out the Made to Stick web site, which includes a link to the authors' blog, to which they post frequently about very interesting (and related) topics. You know your inner nerd wants to.

- e

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