Made to Stick

Made to Stick, Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is a pretty good book. It’s marketed as a business book by some major bookstores, but libraries may shelve it under social psychology. The Duke University Business school has promoted it on its web page. Co-author Dan Heath is a consultant in the Duke program. The web site for the book has links to other reviews.
It starts with a retelling of the urban legend of drugged travelers and kidney theft. The authors, the Heath brothers, ask why this story is likely to remembered and repeated. They suggest that the ideas that stick are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional stories. They work through those 6 concepts, using case studies from business and the general media.
Which corporate mission statements provide a useful framework for decision-making by employees and customers? Southwest Airlines in the low-cost airline. Their customers know it, and the whole organization knows it. The discussion of corporate mission statements is good, and it’s quite funny. The Heath brothers deflate several meaningless and pretentious mission statements, and that has started a sort of buzz on the internet. Their book blog has tracked stories about moronic corporate mission statements.
Remember “where’s the beef”? Remember the urban myth of poisoned halloween candy? Why is sportsmanship a dead idea, and how has the idea of respect for the game replaced it?
The Heath brothers explain why some ideas are believed by some people, and remembered, even if not believed, by most people. They also look at the business end of psychology – which stories get people to buy products, send money to charities, act better, or simplify decisions.
The book provides a good working explanation of the psychology of decision making, which explains why there is more to persuasion than logic. In spite of the bad name given to rhetoric by Aristotle and other classical philosophers, it works.