Mar 18, 2010

Book Review: Books from the Heath Brothers

I've become a big fan of Chip and Dan Heath's books. I first discovered them when I saw their book "Made to Stick" on another blogger's website. They had duct tape on the cover, so that pretty much sealed the deal for me.
Have you ever heard the Urban Legend of the guy that was in the big city on business? He goes to get a drink that evening and wakes up in a bathtub full of ice, with surgical tubing hanging out of him and a note saying that he needs to call 911 because they've taken his kidneys.
Why do we remember stuff like that, but we can't remember simply bible stories or verses. How many sermons have you heard in your lifetime? How many do you actually remember?
Just because an idea is being presented to us doesn't mean it's going to stick. And as good as the idea is, and as much as we want to remember it, ideas don't automatically stick.
All of us present ideas on a regular basis. A parent teaching their child about manners is presenting an idea they hope will stick. A salesman explaining a product to a potential customer is presenting an idea they hope will stick. Applying for an new job is presenting an idea that you hope will stick. Advertising is presenting an idea that you hope will stick.
They suggest the "SUCCES(s) format for presenting ideas. I'll briefly outline the main points here:
  • Simplicity: Keep the ideas simple. Don't dumb it down, but strip it down to it's most important element. What’s the core of your message? If they only remember one thing, what should that be? Make that the priority.
  • Unexpected: Do something unexpected to provide an interruption in people's thought process. If they think you know what you are going to say before you say it, they stop listening. Shock their system a little bit.
  • Concrete: Your message has to solid. Abstract ideas are rarely remembered. Saying that movie popcorn is unhealthy is kinda a vague statement. Saying that a bucket of movie popcorn has the same fat as a complete bacon/egg breakfast plus a Big Mac & fries, plus a full steak dinner gives you a concrete idea of just how unhealthy it is for you. (...but still so very delicious!)
  • Credibility: People have to trust you, or trust your sources. If I tell you smoking is bad, you may or may not believe me. If a doctor tells you smoking is bad, you are more likely to believe them. If a lung cancer survivor tells you smoking is bad, you are really likely to believe them.
  • Emotional: People don't do much until you get their emotions moving. That's why the "Feed the Children" commercials put hungry children in their ads. It moves your emotions. Just statistics on how many kids lack proper nutrition won't cause people to open up their wallets.
  • Stories: Simply said people remember stories. That's why movies are so popular. They tell a story. Look at the more popular video games that are out there. They have a role playing element to them. More than playing a game, you are a character in a story.

The best selling point of Dan & Chip's material is the simplicity in which they present it. Chip is a professor at Stanford University and Dan has been a researcher at Harvard University. But, they don't write in a scholarly tone. They put everything into a form that an idiot like me can easily get and apply. And on their website, they provide additional resources that further explains their material.
Dan & Heath's newest book was just released: Switch, How to Change Things When Change is Hard. I haven't read the whole book yet, but the first chapter is available for free with registration. Just what is presented in the first chapter has already changed how I look at things and how I think. And, like with Made to Stick, they provide a bunch of free resources to go along with the book.
So, are you looking to be more memorable? Read "Made to Stick." Looking to make a change in your life. Read "Switch." While you are picking up your copy of "Switch" be sure and grab one for me. Thanks!

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