Five Tricks to Stickiness

I’ve been re-reading “Made to Stick” by the Heath Bros. again recently. For anyone like me who has very little time to read anything other than calendars, to do lists, homework and mountains of email, that’s no small feat!

Yet, this book is inspiring! It reinvigorates my perspective on communicating effectively. The principle of the book is that some ideas are more “sticky” than others – to be really effective, your message needs to follow a tried-but-true formula to make it stick.

I’m always amazed when even the most senior leaders, when asked on the spot about their “elevator speech” for passion projects, stumble to articulate a business strategy or goal of a project.

The best example I’ve seen lately of a business leader who created stickiness was Steve Jobs. As the world mourned the loss of an incredible leader and innovative genius who made an incredible impact on society, his speech to Stanford graduates was played and replayed again. He concluded it by saying, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”.

Those simple words resonated and caught the imagination of the world as we eulogized a leader who embodied those simple concepts so well:

  1. Simplicity. Focus on core message is key to being effective. Everything he was trying to convey to these graduates boiled down to these 4 words.
  2. Unexpectedness. Boil your message down to something that makes people sit up and take notice. Since when have we heard a leader so passionately invite people to be foolish?
  3. Concreteness. Be practical yet substantive. His phrase wasn’t a platitude about “making a mark on the world” or something that was “mom and apple pie” wholesome. It was practical advise that you can measure your progress against!
  4. Credibility. Does your past experience speak volumes? Steve’s did – his life embodied hunger and foolishness – and that was how he made his mark on the world.
  5. Emotions. Inject passion and fervor in your message. He spoke with such passion and commitment that day; I’m convinced his ability to communicate was one key to his success in leading Apple for so many years.

I saw an article about a woman who, as a Stanford graduate, heard Jobs’ speech that day and changed her life’s path to follow her passion and her dream (with much success). I love this story about the impact of a powerful message! And while it’s difficult to make some dry subjects come to life, the trick is to incorporate all these core principles as an anchor for effective communication campaign that creates powerful, lasting change.