Get Sticky – Put Your Ideas Across with Clarity and Impact
In 1995, I faced a major challenge in my career. I’d been given a large retail store in a major Canadian chain to manage, and a goal to grow sales and profit agressively. To make matters more interesting, the manager I’d replaced had used fear and shame to manage the staff. Instead, I decided to provide focus and motivation through play and fun.
That year, Buzz Lightyear made his debut. Borrowing on the fearless star commander’s declaration, “To Infinity and Beyond”, we launched Project Infinity. Our mission was to pull apart all aspects of store operations—inventory, merchandising, scheduling, customer experience, etc.—in order to fix them. Using an outside consultant, along with a lot of hard work, we had Buzz Lightyear banners, watches, contests, games, and rallies. By year-end, we’d had a major overhaul and the largest growth ever: 30%.
The experience is a good demonstration of the six qualities that make an idea both understood and successful. It’s all about how you get that idea across—how you make it stick.
- Our message was simple—we were going to fix things and get people more engaged.
- The approach was unexpected (especially considering the previous manager!).
- It was concrete (each department had three key target metrics).
- It was also credible (the theme got everyone to believe we could do this).
- We made it emotional by making sure that everyone cared.
- It involved stories (Buzz and his determination to believe in what was possible).
You may have put forward new strategies or messages earlier this year. Now may be a good time to run them through a “stickiness” review. Ask yourself, did they get lost in the clutter of the message, or have they “stuck around” and made an impact?
Is your message “sticky”? Read on for more on how to be SUCCESsful.
Made to Stick
Some stories stick around forever (think, Aesop’s fables). Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath, is an ideal book for looking at how to communicate your messages effectively and get your ideas to make a difference.
Great ideas start with messages that catch people’s attention, help them grasp the goal immediately, believe in and care about the idea, and move to action. The six key qualities put forth spell it out (literally): Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Stories=SUCCESs. Each one is worth delving into. For example, how often does an abstract phrase like “process improvement” mask what is really needed? Or when too many facts and details leaves a listener baffled instead of engaged?
If you need any more convincing, it’s worth listening to President John F. Kennedy’s “Moon speech”. It was given to the US Congress on May 25, 1961 to gain support for the US space program. There’s nothing abstract in how JFK asks the whole country “to commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” His idea was easily understood and quickly got attention. In fact, it took hold and inspired decades of research and innovation.
Buy the book here.