The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Made to stick

As a journalist, it often amazes me the problems that people in the communications industry have in getting their ideas across.

Sometimes, as I look at my shorthand, I feel like weeping. Are there any good ideas in there? Maybe it's the same, post-groups, with qual. So when I came across a book entitled Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck I was curious enough to shell out the purchase price. It did not disappoint.

The authors, Chip and Dan Heath (Chip is a Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Stanford Business School, Dan an education consultant and publisher) approach their topic with gusto.

The brothers Heath use a simple formula, placing memorable and easily forgotten information alongside one another so as to make the case for six factors that, in combination, make the difference between what's memorable and what's not.

Those six factors are:

Simplicity:

Create ideas that are both simple and profound. Look for a one-sentence statement so profound that you could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.

Unexpectedness:

Violate people's expectations, engage their curiosity.

Concreteness:

Explain ideas in terms of human actions, of sensory information. It's the only way to ensure that ideas mean the same thing to everyone in the audience.

Credibility:

Get the listener to "try before you buy" when it comes to ideas. Ronald Reagan, instead of citing statistics in the 1980 US presidential debate, just asked his audience: "Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today that you were four years ago."

Emotions:

Make people feel something about your idea, even though it can be tough finding the right emotion to harness.

Stories:

Combine messages in stories (they're big fans of Aesop's Fables). You may say: "There's nothing earth-shattering there." And you'd be right.

It's also true that - even with these six principles to hand - eyes often glaze over mid-conversation. It's due, Chip and Dan say, to the 'Curse of Knowledge'. But they do their best to help us overcome it.

 

Louella Miles
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2007