I recently went to a conference hosted by Adaptive Path. It was a rather inspiring experience. I’ve been to these sort of things before, but this one was different. The biggest difference was the audience. It seems after spending some time talking to the people seated around me, any one of them could have been on stage. I’m sure that some of them will be tapped to be speakers in the future. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Thomas Obrey of PixelMEDIA, they are doing some very exciting things…

But I’m not here to talk about Thomas. The first speaker on the schedule was Chip Heath, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. His subject was “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”.

He suggests the following six fundamentals that make ideas stick:

  1. Simple: If you say 10 things, you say nothing. Focus on one message.
    Find your high concept pitch, which is something that has context and is immediately understood. Experts love complexity. Don’t let the curse of knowledge get in the way of great ideas.
  2. Unexpected: Break the pattern. Find the pattern that needs to be broken. He cites Karen Wood’s actions on a flight from Dallas to San Diego. She broke a long-standing pattern and found she had the attention of her audience.
  3. Concrete: This basically means visual. Urban legends give you a clear mental picture. It helps people understand your idea and remember it much later. If the audience can “see” your idea, they are much more likely to remember it. Make the abstract into something visual.
  4. Credible: If it is going to resonate, people must believe it. A credible idea will defend itself, it gives us reasons to believe it is true.
  5. Emotional: Does the user care? Whats in it for Me? (w.i.i.f.me) Appeals to our wishes and desires. Connects with the image we have of ourselves.
  6. Stories: “Flight simulators for our brains”. Target marketing is good, but using stories crosses borders. Aesop knew this well. We remember his stories. If it wasn’t effective we might just have a published list of Aesop’s morals.

He notes that the more of these six points we can include in our ideas and messages, the greater chance we have of creating something memorable.

If we want our ideas to spread, we need to create ideas worth sharing. Chip offers some great suggestions for helping communicators make this happen.

You can read portions of his book here. On that page, there are links to a few places that would be glad to sell you a copy.