Book Review: Made to Stick

At the recommendation of a missionary friend I picked up a copy of Made to Stick at the local library. His comment was something like: “It is not a mission’s book, but it certainly is applicable to missionary work.”

While I tend to agree with many pastors that business books can be dangerous when you try to apply the principles of running a corporation to a church, I also think that there are many good things we can glean from reading books that make businesses successful. This book is not so much a business book as it is about communication; regardless of the work environment.

The authors, brothers Chip and Dan Heath, have isolated 6 principles that help make an idea ‘sticky.’ What I loved about the way they explained the principles is they used urban legends as many of their examples. There are reasons that urban legends get passed around and tend to stick no matter how much information is on the web to the contrary. If you could communicate real ideas, stories and principles in a way that cause them to stick like an urban legend, then you would get your message across. The book is filled with real examples as well.

In Made to Stick you will find the 6 principles and examples illustrating those ideas. Not every sticky idea will contain all 6, but the more you can communicate using the 6 principles, the stickier your communication will be.

What are the principles? Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Story. SUCCESs is used as the trigger to help you remember these principles.

Simple: Find the core of what you want to communicate. This has to do with the idea you want to share more than the way you share it. Sometimes an elaborate story can get the message across in a more sticky way than just sharing the core. Therefore, Simple is about the message, not necessarily the way it is delivered.

Unexpected: At the end of the story did you expect that the person was going to wake up in an ice-filled tub having had his kidney’s stolen? Giving examples of how you want your sales staff to meet the customer’s needs is much more sticky than saying, “Take care of the customer.”

Concrete: Help your audience work through the thought process instead of just teaching them the bottom line. An example is how students learn math better when they think through adding members to make up a baseball team as opposed to just telling the students that 3+6=9.

Credible: Being credible is not just being able to spout off statistics that no one will remember. Credibility can come through showing an example of a person going through a similar problem and how they are dealing with it. Better yet, have that person become your spokesperson. Real people dealing with real issues.

Emotion: Help people see themselves either experiencing the problem or being a solution to the problem. Instead of asking the crowd to give money to support all the missionaries in South America, I should help you understand that if you support my ministry in Argentina I will be able to share the Gospel of Christ with a deaf boy in La Plata who may never have another person love him enough to teach him the Bible. By sending $50 a month you can help my family do just that.

Story: Take any opportunity you have to illustrate with a story as opposed to just giving the facts. In the book they say that the story and the moral are both important. However, if you just tell the story the listener can figure out the moral. But if you only have the moral (the facts) then the listener has no clear understanding of what the moral means nor a good way to remember it.

I have to say that this is probably THE BEST BOOK I have read in a long time. While I borrowed this copy from the local library, I will be on the lookout for a copy of my own. This is a book that I could easily read several more times and go back and reference often in the future. I think it is a great book for missionaries and pastors as well as anyone who needs to communicate a message.

Made to Stick. Chip and Dan Heath. Random House, 2007. 291 pages.

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