Here are my notes on the great book « Made to Stick » by Chip and Dan Heath:

6 Principles:

1. Simplicity

Prioritization rescues people from the quicksand of decision angst, and that’s why finding the core is so valuable. Put the core right up front.

I.e: Southwest: “THE low cost airline”, local newspaper: “Names, names, names”

Simple = Core + Compact

Tap the existing memory terrain of the audience. Use analogies or high-concept pitches. For instance to describe Alien it would be “Jaws on a spaceship”.


Proverbs are the holy Grail of simplicity.


2. Unexpected

How do I get people attention? How do I keep it?

Surprise: sticky ideas propose surprising facts: “The great wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from space!” Urban legends…

Interest: keeps your attention. Conspiracy theories, gossip, etc keep us interested.

Surprise: for instance commercials for automobile safety. It is unexpected since it violates our preconceived schema in our brain. Surprise is triggered when our schemas fail, and it prepares us why the failure occurred.

Good process to make ideas stickier:

  1. Identify the central message you need to communicate – finding the core
  2. Figure out what is counterintuitive about the message – what are the unexpected implications of your core message, why isn’t it already happening naturally
  3. Communicate your message in a way that breaks your audience’s guessing machines along the critical, counterintuitive dimension. Then, once their guessing machines have failed, help them refine their machines


By creating mystery at the start of the class, return to it during the lecture, and reveal the answer at the end.

The “Gap theory” of curiosity: curiosity happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge. To take away the pain of ignorance we need to fill the knowledge gap. The gap theory relies on our ability to point out things that people.

One complication is that people tend to think they know a lot. Making people commit to a prediction can help prevent overconfidence. “Concept testing”, by the simple act of committing to an answer makes the students more engaged and more curious about the outcome. Overconfident people are more likely to recognize a knowledge gap when they realize that others disagree with them. To increase this effect the discussion should be designed to produce disagreements about the right answer.

As we gain more information we are more and more likely to focus on what we don’t know. i.e: Someone who knows the state capitol of 17 of 50 states may be proud of her knowledge. But someone who knows 47 may be more likely to think or herself as not knowing of herself as not knowing 3 capitals. Curiosity comes from gaps in our knowledge. Knowledge gaps create interests.


3. Concrete

Concrete language helps people, especially, novices, understand new concepts. Concrete ideas are easier to remember. Learning by experimenting it: example of the class teacher that separates blue eyes from brown eyes children to explain racism.


4. Credible

A person’s knowledge of details is often a good proxy for her expertise. Concrete details and statistics lend credibility to the authorities that provide them. Demonstration is the final twist, to make the data meaningful to the listeners. The point is to hit people in the gut.

The Sinatra Test: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”

5. Emotional

Mother Theresa: “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

For people to take action, they have to care. Appeal to self-interest: “the secret of how to betaller”, “Retire at 55”… Project the future benefits to the consumers not the attributes of the products. Appeal to identity: interest for the group: “What’s in it for my group?”. Keep asking “why?” helps us to remind us of the core values, the core principles, that underlie our ideas. Create empathy for specific individuals. Show how our ideas are associated with things that people already care about. We appeal to their self-interest but also to their identities – not only to the people they are right now but also to the people they would like to be.

6. Stories

Get people to act. Stories as simulation (tell people how to act). Stories as inspiration (give people energy to act). Tell as springboard story: a story that helps people how an existing problem might change.