Six Tips to Make Ideas SucceedBy Baselinemag | Posted 2007-03-07 Email Print
Making new ideas gain traction in the boardroom can be sticky business. A new book offers CIOs some best practices.
One part of a CIO's job is making a convincing business case for complex ideas. How can you break through the acronyms and tech talk, and make those ideas understandable and memorable? In their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Random House, January 2007), the Heath brothersChip Heath, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, and Dan Heath, a consultant at Duke Corporate Educationisolate and elaborate on six principles for helping ideas succeed. An excerpt from the book follows. Excerpt:
Many of us struggle with how to communicate ideas effectively, how to get our ideas to make a difference. The broad question, then, is how do you design an idea that sticks? By "stick," we mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impactthey change your audience's opinions or behavior.
There is no "formula" for a sticky ideawe don't want to overstate the case. But sticky ideas do draw from a common set of traits.
Principle 1: Simplicity. How do we find the essential core of our ideas? A successful defense lawyer says, "If you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won't remember any." We must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. Sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound.
Principle 2: Unexpectedness. How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? We need to violate people's expectations. We need to be counterintuitive. A bag of popcorn is as unhealthy as a whole day's worth of fatty foods! We can use surprise to grab people's attention. But surprise doesn't last. For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity. Going for a big surprise, though, can cause a big problem. It's easy to step over the line into gimmickry.
Principle 3: Concreteness. How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. This is where so much business communication goes awry. Mission statements, synergies, strategies, visionsthey are often ambiguous to the point of being meaningless. Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images. Speaking concretely is the only way to ensure that our idea will mean the same thing to everyone in our audience.