three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
By: 
Dan Heath
user_rating: 
0

Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

A-Made to StickEveryone knows Jared, who holds up a pair of oversized pants on television while describing his Subway sandwich diet. But why do we remember him, even after other ad campaigns have come and gone? Why do students remember lessons from one class but not another? Why do urban legends persist long after they’ve been disproved? Brothers Chip and Dan Heath explore these questions and more as they analyze everything from political slogans to ancient proverbs to determine what common qualities make ideas "stick" in our collective consciousness. The Heaths discovered that "sticky" ideas have six elements in common: they are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and told in the form of a story (SUCCESs). Wow, what a happy accident that acronym was!
Random House. 304 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1400064287

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"Made to Stick summons plenty of brain science, social history, and behavioral psychology to explain what makes an idea winning and memorable—and the Heaths do the telling with beautiful clarity. But they’ve also learned their own most important lesson: They know that with ideas it’s not the telling but the showing that counts, so they’ve filled their book with stories that illustrate their theories." Michael S. Hopkins

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"At times, the writing sounds like the motivational speaker/father character in Little Miss Sunshine spouting his nine-step ‘Refuse to Lose’ program. Still, the ideas themselves are intriguing, and when the authors adhere to their own formula—giving us real-life stories with concrete details, vivid examples and unexpected outcomes—the narrative becomes utterly compelling." Bernadette Murphy

Rocky Mountain News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Its many helpful anecdotes (including a scientist who drank a jar of bacteria to prove a point, and a fictitious ring of human kidney thieves) illustrate why good ideas stick around. [But] Made to Stick provides only minimal practical instruction on generating your own successful ideas." Steve Ruskin

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"They have written a fine, ‘sticky’ book. … But at the same time, the very power of their story is troubling. For there are three other features of ideas that, to my mind, ought to be affecting their stickiness: Ideas should be socially beneficial, or Worthwhile; they should be Important; and, above all, they should be True (which is not the same as credible)." Barry Schwartz

Wall Street Journal 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The analytical point of all those sticky ideas almost gets lost in the welter of anecdotes. … Even the inevitable acronym for creating a successful idea, SUCCESs … [is] missing something, aside from a proper ending: the sort of compelling presentation that would make the authors’ theorizing as memorable as the stories they recount." Joanna L. Ossinger

Critical Summary

Chip and Dan Heath—a Stanford professor and an education entrepreneur, respectively—attempt to determine why one idea succeeds while another fails. What could have been a dry marketing textbook is, instead, a generally engaging narrative generously endowed with anecdotes and instructive sidebars. The Wall Street Journal expressed annoyance at the profusion of personal stories, while the Washington Post cited some problems with the overall framework. Overall, however, Made to Stick is a worthy addition to the spate of recent books that explain why we do the things we do and how this self-knowledge can be used more effectively. "Anyone interested in influencing others—to buy, to vote, to learn, to diet, to give to charity or to start a revolution—can learn from this book" (Washington Post).