The Strategist

Six basics of compelling ideas

07/27/2018 - 15:30

Clingy ideas have certain key features. Although there is no single formula for creating an ideal memorable idea, they rely on a common set of characteristics that are likely to ensure their success. Below are six principles of sticky ideas.

Principle 1: Simplicity

How do we define the essence of our ideas? One successful lawyer said: "You could make a dozen good comments. However, when the judges leave for the advisory room, they do not remember a single one." In order to expose the essence of an idea, it is necessary to screen it for elimination. You need to learn how to set priorities firmly. This does not mean learning to speak short: short fragments are not ideal. 

Our ideas should be concise and informative at the same time. There’s the golden rule: a one sentence long statement can be so meaningful that a person can spend his whole life trying to follow it.

Principle 2: Surprise

How to attract attention to your ideas and the audience interested, if a clear presentation takes time? It is necessary to break people's expectations. You have to be illogical. You can surprise them with something and thereby make people concentrate in order to attract their attention. However, the surprise effect does not last long.

It is necessary to arouse interest and curiosity to make the interest more prolonged. How to entice students during the 48th lesson of history for the year? We can tease human curiosity for a long time by systematically identifying gaps in their knowledge and then filling them.

Principle 3: Specificity

How to make the ideas clear? They need to be expressed with the help of sensory images. This is where the main part of business communications is getting off the right track. Goals and objectives, interactions, strategies, concepts - often all this is ambiguous to the point that it makes no sense.

Sticky ideas are full of specific images: ice baths, apples with blades, since our brain is programmed to memorize specific data. Proverbs, for example, often express abstract truth in concrete terms: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." To speak specifically is the only way to ensure that our idea means the same for each listener.

Principle 4: Reliability

How to make people believe in our ideas? When former chief surgeon C. Everett Koop talked about public health problems, most people treated his ideas without skepticism. However, in everyday life one rarely hears the same authoritative opinion. Obtrusive ideas should inspire confidence per se. We need to give people an opportunity to "try on" our ideas using the "try before you buy" principle.

Many of us instinctively grab for exact figures when struggling to pick up strong arguments. However, most often this is an incorrect approach. In the US presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter In 1980, the first could mention the vast amount of statistics that testified to stagnation in the economy. Instead, he asked a simple question that allowed voters to try it on themselves: "Before you vote, ask yourself: are you living better today than four years ago?"

Principle 5: Emotionality

Research shows that people are more likely to make a charitable donation to a lone needy person than to an entire poor region. We experience emotions in relation to people, and not to abstractions. Sometimes the hardest thing is finding the right emotion that can be touched. For example, it is difficult to force adolescents to quit smoking, frightening them with consequences, but one can use their dislike of large tobacco industry enterprises.

Principle 6: History

How to make people follow our ideas? We tell stories. Thanks to this, firefighters multiply their experience after each fire. After years of work in their memory, a huge number of situations that they may encounter during a fire, and the correct response, are stored.

The study shows that a mental "rehearsal" of the situation helps to achieve better results when we encounter it in reality. Just like that, the stories act as a kind of flight simulator, preparing us for a more rapid and effective response.

You don’t need special knowledge in order to apply these principles. Moreover, many of them are based on simple common sense: did you not intuitively guess that we need to "just talk" and "use stories"? 

Based on “Made to Stick. Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath