Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die - Deepstash
Persuasive storytelling

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How to use storytelling to influence and persuade

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Persuasive storytelling

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“The Curse of Knowledge: when we are given knowledge, it is impossible to imagine what it's like to lack that knowledge.”



5.18K reads

Six qualities that make an idea stick

There are two steps in making your ideas sticky: Step 1 is to find the core. Step 2 is to translate the core using the SUCCESs checklist.

  1. S - simplicity. It is uncomplicated.
  2. U - unexpectedness. It's surprising.
  3. C - concreteness. It's easily understood.
  4. C - credibility. It's factual.
  5. E - emotional. Making people care.
  6. S - story. It is wrapped in a story.

Compare the CEO phrase, "let's maximize shareholder value", to JFK's idea, "Put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade." The idea is simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and a story.


2.59K reads

Make an idea sticky with simplicity

To make an idea sticky, keep it simple. The idea should be stripped down to its core, where there is nothing left to take away. Use fewer bullet points. Use easy words. Reduce the ideas. The more we reduce the information, the more the idea will stick. 

An example of using the core: Southwest uses "We are the low-cost airline." Every decision involves meeting this concrete yet simple goal.


2.15K reads

Unexpected ideas

Use the unexpected to keep the attention. Humans thrive on thinking in patterns. When a pattern is disrupted, it is more easily remembered.

To make an idea stickier:

  • Identify the core message
  • Consider what is counter-intuitive or surprising to your key message. The surprise should make sense after you think about it, but it's not something you've anticipated.
  • Interrupt the guessing, then fix it.

A TV commercial started as a car commercial with a happy family travelling in a car. Suddenly, a speeding car crashes into it. No one saw it coming. It was really a safety ad.


1.63K reads

Concrete ideas

Concrete ideas are easy to remember. Something is concrete when it can be described or seen with the human senses. A v-8 engine is concrete, high-peformance is abstract.

Novices see concrete detail as concrete detail, but an expert sees concrete detail as symbols of a pattern. The problem is that when we know more, we forget that we're shifting into the abstract.  

For example, the jury sees the concrete aspects of a trial, the clothing, manner, specific procedure. The judge sees all in terms of legal precedent and past lessons.


1.55K reads

Credible ideas

How to create credibility when you don't have a true authority, such as experts, tradition, etc.

  • Use an anti-authority. A dying smoker can make the point that smoking is bad for you. 
  • Use concrete details. A person's knowledge of details is often viewed as expertise. Telling fascinating Civil War anecdotes with lots of interesting details can make the narrator credible.
  • Use statistics. Use statistics correctly to illustrate a relationship.
  • Use the Sinatra Trest. "if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere." Making use of one test case to make the idea credible.
  • Use testable credentials.


1.43K reads

The emotional component of stickiness

The goal of making a message emotional is to make people care. Feelings inspire people to take action.

  • The easiest way to make people care is to form creative associations between something they already care about and something they don't care about (yet). 
  • Appealing to self-interest. A common mistake is to emphasize a feature over benefits. For example, telling people you have the best seed instead of stating that it will give them the greenest lawn.
  • Appealing to identity. Focusing on intangibles such as self-esteem or a sense of duty is more powerful than focusing on money.


1.26K reads

Stories make ideas sticky

The right stories make people act. Stories encourage a mental stimulation that burns an idea into the mind. For example, a flight simulator is more effective than flashcards in training a pilot.

Good stories are collected and discovered rather than produced. There are three influential stories to look for:

  1. The challenge plot: The classic underdog, rags to riches, or triumphing over adversity. 
  2. The connection plot: People who develop a relationship that bridges gaps.
  3. The creativity plot: Making a mental breakthrough, solving a difficult problem, or creating an innovative solution.


1.33K reads



Surveyor for building control

Curious about different takes? Check out our Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Summary book page to explore multiple unique summaries written by Deepstash users.

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