Made to Stick

Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Read:  2017-10-15, Rating:  6/10.

Urban Legends are:

  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional
  6. Stories

My Notes:

The Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.


What we mean by “simple” is finding the core of the idea.

We know that sentences are better than paragraphs. Two bullet points are better than five. Easy words are better than hard words. It’s a bandwidth issue: The more we reduce the amount of information in an idea, the stickier it will be.

Proverbs are the Holy Grail of simplicity.

Finding the core and expressing it in the form of a compact idea, can be enduringly powerful.


Break the pattern.

Surprise is the opposite of predictability. But, to be satisfying, surprise must be “postdictable.” The twist makes sense after you think about it, but it’s not something you would have seen coming.

Shift our thinking from “What information do I need to convey?” to “What questions do I want my audience to ask?”


We forget that we’re slipping into abstractspeak. We forget that other people don’t know what we know. We’re the engineers who keep flipping back to our drawings, not noticing that the assemblers just want us to follow them down to the factory floor.

Aesop’s Fables avoid the trap of abstraction. Concrete language helps people understand new concepts. Abstraction is the luxury of the expert.

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.


A person’s knowledge of details is often a good proxy for her expertise.

The use of vivid details is one way to create internal credibility— to weave sources of credibility into the idea itself. Another way is to use statistics.

Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today than you were four years ago.


When people think analytically, they actually stop thinking emotionally. Get self-interest into every headline you write. Suggest to readers that here is something they want. Spell out the benefit of the benefit.

A lot of us think everyone else is living in Maslow’s basement, while we’re in the Penthouse.

“Three Whys” can be useful in bypassing the Curse of Knowledge.

Asking “Why?” helps to remind us of the core values, the core principles, that underlie our ideas.


For an idea to stick, for it to be useful and lasting, it’s got to make the audience:

  1. Pay attention (unexpected)
  2. Understand and remember it (concrete)
  3. Agree/ Believe (credibility)
  4. Care (emotion)
  5. Be able to act on it (simplicity / story)”