A few years ago I was in a meeting listening to a presentation. A couple of minutes into the presentation, I was surprised to find a photo of me on a slide that stated, “Congratulations!” I had been interviewing with the team who was presenting and they surprised me with a with a lime-green, poster-sized envelope that had “offer” written on the outside and the actual offer letter inside. Also inside the poster envelope was the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die with a handwritten note that said, “Welcome to the Brand team! We are so excited to have you join the team and come ready to make things stick on your first day!”
You can probably guess I accepted the offer and joined DaVita’s employer branding team. The offer was memorable and unexpected, as was the book Made to Stick.
The authors, Chip (a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business) and Dan (a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship), cover why some ideas are effective and memorable and others are utterly forgettable. Some ideas stick while others quickly fade away.
Why you should read it
Made to Stick taps into what employer branding and talent acquisitions professionals are trying to achieve: How to effectively communicate your ideas and make them stand out in the mind of your audience.
Some sticky advice
True to its title, Made to Stick, is easy to read and provides six principles to make sure your ideas connect with those you are communicating with. The Heath Brothers even provide a clever acronym, SUCCESs, as a practical guide.
SUCCESs stand for: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotional, and Stories.
Simplicity – A sticky idea needs to be compact and profound. The authors compare this to proverbs like: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The key to a simple message is to strip that message down to the core idea.
Unexpected – Our brains are wired to be guessing machines and figure out what will happen next. When our guessing machines are incorrect, we become surprised. To be clear, unexpected doesn’t need to be one that causes our audience to jump back with mouths agape, rather the goal is to drive an emotional reaction that sparks curiosity and interest that is correlated to your core message.
Additionally, unexpected results are ones that break the norm. I could have received a typical emailed offer letter or verbal offer but instead, I was surprised with a book, offer letter on lime-green construction paper and a photo of me on the projection screen.
Concreteness – Village, teammates, and SITCAFF: These are just a few examples of the DaVita jargon that is used regularly within the organization but can fall flat to candidates unless context is given. One main barrier to concreteness is the Curse of Knowledge. A familiar example of this is tapping a well-known song to a friend, like happy birthday. In 1990 a study was conducted at Stanford where tappers estimated that 50 percent of listeners would guess the song they were tapping on the table correctly. The results showed a startling contrast. Tappers only got their message across 1 time in 40.
The problem is that once we know something—just like the melody of a song—we find it hard to imagine not knowing it.
(And in case you were wondering, Village is a term used in lieu of organization. Teammates = employees. SITCAFF is an acronym of DaVita’s core values: Services Excellence, Integrity, Team, Continuous Improvement, Accountability, Fulfillment, and Fun.)
Credibility – As candidates are searching for jobs, they want to know what it is really like to work for an organization. Hence websites like Glassdoor continue to grow in popularity. Videos are also a powerful way to visually show and hear from internal employees on the role for which they are interviewing.
Emotions – For people to take action they have to care and see the value of what is in it for them. One way to achieve this is through the last principle of Stories.
Stories – Stories put knowledge in a framework that is more life-like. During the recruitment process, we ask hiring managers and employees to share a specific example of when they knew DaVita was a different place to work. This not only establishes credibility but also taps into concreteness and emotion.
Making ideas stick does take time and focus. During your next PowerPoint presentation or when you are writing a job description, I recommend you read the Heath Brothers’ book and try the SUCCESs checklist.
For additional resources on how to make ideas stick visit the Heath Brothers website.