One of the best business lessons I have learned over the years is the concept of one big idea. A big idea is an idea or position that separates you from
the crowd. A big idea is similar to a Unique Selling Proposition, but it goes beyond that. All with the intention of getting someone to buy-in to your idea
It usually goes against the grain and many times causes polarity in popular opinion. You can see this everyday in the diet and health niche. There is the
South beach diet, the Anabolic Diet, The Atkins diet, and the list goes on. Each and every one of these popular diets has a unique twist or idea that has really caught on with the general public.
Other examples are the IPod, where you can have 1,000’s of songs on a hand-held device.
Coming up with your big idea is not easy. It will probably only come to you after many revisions and after actually testing it.
But what makes an idea become popular? Why do some ideas catch on like wildfires and other simply disappear never to hear from again.
This a subject that I am always reading and researching because I find it very interesting.
I was recently reading, “Made to Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath. The book is an attempt to look at available research and studies and answer the question,
“why do some ideas survive and others die?”
In the field of NLP, practitioners often use the concept of ‘modeling’ successful people. The principle is simple: if you do exactly what they do, in the
same order they do it, you can produce the same or similar results. This is very true. I have experienced this in my life, especially in my health.
I wanted to make some improvements in my body composition so I found the person that had the result I was looking for and modeled what they did, when they
did it and I produced similar results.
Creating and crafting winning big ideas is very similar. Though not guaranteed, you can model successful ideas of the past and present to increase your
chances of them being winners.
According to Chip and Heath, after thousands of hours of research they believe that there are 6 principles to a ‘Sticky’ Idea. Here they are:
Your idea has to be simple. Simple doesn’t mean short. Sound bites aren’t’ what we are looking for. Our big idea has to be simple and profound. The author’s example, was if you a trial lawyer argues 10 points, even if each is a good point, by the time the jury gets
back to the trial room, they won’t remember anything. If your big idea is too confusing or has to be explained to often, people will lose interest. One of
my favorite examples of a big idea that is really short and to the point is, “how you do anything, is how you do everything.” Southwest airlines has been
one of the longest running profitable airlines in history. Herb Kelleher once told someone, “I can teach you the secret to running this airline in thirty
seconds. This is it: We are THE low-fare airline. Once you understand that fact, you can make any decision about this company’s future as well as I can.”
How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? According to the
Heath brothers, we need to “violate their expectations”. We need to be counter-intuitive. We need to do or say something that surprises our audience and
causes them to focus. But simply surprising them is not enough because surprise is only momentary. What has to occur next is the creation of interest and curiosity. The best way to do that is by creating open loops or gaps that will peak their interest and curiosity and then
close those loops and fill those gaps. We do this all time in our presentations; we open with a pattern interrupt. Example: “Look to the person on your
left and look to the person on you right, according to SBA 2 of you 3 will be out of business next year…” People are listening, focused and curious where
you’re going to go next.
Basically this means explaining your idea clearly in terms your audience can relate to. I see this in business communications all the time. Mission
statements and purpose statements are so vague and ambiguous that the really have zero impact — they’re meaningless. When explain your idea use vivid,
clear language. Ie – “Warm, plush leather, new car smell and the brisk air flowing through your hair”. Naturally sticky ideas are full of concrete images.
Our minds are wired to remember concrete data. In presenting we call this illustration. Describing in great detail the claim you made.
How do we make people believe our ideas? When it comes to ideas that we don’t understand we often look for experts advice to help us decide. This is a very
critical point because for an idea to become sticky the first rule is simplicity. It is vital that your audience can understand the concept before they can
believe it. Contrary to instinct, which is to grab hard numbers and use facts, Heath insists that a more persuasive way is to create a situation where the
audience can come to the conclusion on their own. His example was during the 1980 debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, Reagan couldn’t have cited
innumerable statistics illustrating that economy was sluggish but instead he asked the question, “Before you vote, ask yourself if you are better off today
than you were four years ago.” This isn’t to say that market data isn’t influential, but anytime you can make the audience draw their own conclusions, they
will have more conviction. There is an old saying that goes like this, “if you tell them they will doubt it, if they tell you its fact.” That being said,
authorities are still a main way that we make decisions. If you aren’t an authority, become one by publishing content. ( Start by implementing video marketing content)
Emotions are we get someone to care about our ideas. We make them feel something inside. One way to do this is to put a face on your company, idea
or cause. Figure out a way to make relevant to them. Research has proven that people are more willing to donate to a hungry individual than a nation
ravaged with famine. Our brains are wired to feel for people not abstract ideas. If you have ever seen the commercials with Sarah McLachlan in them… you
know exactly what I’m talking about. Most teenagers know that smoking is hazardous to their health. There is no credibility problem there, yet teen smoking
continued to rise. It wasn’t until 1998 until the “Truth” commercials aired, that we saw a decrease in teen smoking. The reason: they piled hundreds of
body bags in front of the Philp Morris head quarters with caption, “do you know how many people tobacco kills everyday?” You can’t watch that commercial
without seeing Big Tobacco as a villain.
Stories are a critical factor for getting people to act on our ideas. Story telling has been around for ages and is still the most effective way to enroll
people into an idea or movement. You can see the power of stories daily when you hear people gossiping about the days stories, the daily news and menial
conversations. Stories are often times two fold, they teach and they inspire.
In the previous elements I’ve shown you that a credible idea makes people believe and an emotional idea makes people care, well stories make people
Next time you are crafting a speech, a marketing campaign or just trying to persuade someone to your side of an issue. Use this list as a checklist of
sorts and make sure your idea has addressed each and everyone of these traits of a sticky idea.