Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Why don't I love "Made to Stick"?

"Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" by Chip and Dan Heath is one of those books that is continually name-checked in good business blogs. (It's clear that the book itself is "sticky.") Here's a sample of bloggers who have raved about it:

Lines from Lee
Bob Sutton
Presentation Zen
Community Group Therapy
Guy Kawasaki

Those should be enough references to tell you that people really, really like this book. And not just people--people whose judgment I respect. And its subject matter is right up my alley--communication & storytelling in a business context.

So why don't I love the book "Made to Stick" as much as the ideas in it? It's a question I've been asking myself from time to time in the months since I read the first 180 pages, placed it in my bookshelf, and left it there since.

It was a bit too long and not surprising enough (after chapter 1), I guess, for my restless mind. The structure of the book is a bit relentless--laying out the criteria for "sticky" ideas: SUCCES (Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotions, Stories) and using them as chapter titles, in order.

It's a book that I felt could have been as effective (no, more effective) if cut down to 80 pages.

And it felt redundant to me. Unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional content--all are characteristics of good stories. (It felt as if they employed the old--and wrong--presentation maxim: say what you're going to say, say it, then tell them what you just said.)

It's good that the Heaths discussed what good business stories are and presented such effective examples of those stories. Reading it helped me to scrutinize how I was presenting my ideas to the outside world. And I'll probably refer to it again in the future.

But, for me, it didn't add up to the business book of the year.


George Howard said...

I agree with you. I feel like the book definitely could have been MUCH shorter. I do think there is value to it, and still recommend it, but with the caveat that it's overlong. for a book that is focused on stickiness, it doesn't keep you glued to the pages. i struggled at times to get through.



Lee Aase said...

I listened to it instead of reading it, so maybe that made it seem less long to me. Still, I work with a lot of people who have what the Heaths call The Curse of Knowledge, and I thought that formulation alone was worth the price of admission. The other part I liked was the social science experiment stories.

I also agree stories is a good recapitulation of the SUCCESs acronym.

For me, Made to Stick was like hitting the reset button mentally; none of the insights were terribly new, but the did a good job of bringing them together.