What Makes Some Ideas Survive

The qualities of an idea that make them survive and stick to everyone’s mind according to “Made to stick: Why some ideas survive while other die”


  1. Simplicity
    • Simple = core + compact.
    • 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 create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.
  2. Unexpectedness
    • We can use surprise—an emotion whose function is to increase alertness and cause focus—to grab people’s attention.
    • For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity.
    • We can engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time by systematically “opening gaps” in their knowledge—and then filling those gaps.
  3. Concreteness
    • Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images—ice-filled bathtubs, apples with razors—because our brains are wired to remember concrete data.
    • Speaking concretely is the only way to ensure that our idea will mean the same thing to everyone in our audience.
  4. Credibility
    • We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves—a “try before you buy” philosophy for the world of ideas. 
    • When we’re trying to build a case for something, most of us instinctively grasp for hard numbers. But in many cases this is exactly the wrong approach. In the sole U.S. presidential debate in 1980 between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, Reagan could have cited innumerable statistics demonstrating the sluggishness of the economy. Instead, he asked a simple question that allowed voters to test for themselves: “Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today than you were four years ago.
  5. Emotions
    • How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something.
    • Research shows that people are more likely to make a charitable gift to a single needy individual than to an entire impoverished region. 
    • Sometimes the hard part is finding the right emotion to harness. For instance, it’s difficult to get teenagers to quit smoking by instilling in them a fear of the consequences, but it’s easier to get them to quit by tapping into their resentment of the duplicity of Big Tobacco.
  6. Stories
    • How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories.
    • Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. 

Reference