How do we find the essential core of our ideas? 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.” To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. Saying something short is not the mission—sound bites are not the ideal. Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. (Location 246)

how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? We need to violate people’s expectations. We need to be counterintuitive. A bag of popcorn is as unhealthy as a whole day’s worth of fatty foods! We can use surprise—an emotion whose function is to increase alertness and cause focus—to grab people’s attention. But surprise doesn’t last. For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity. (Location 252)

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.” (Location 266)

How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Firefighters naturally swap stories after every fire, and by doing so they multiply their experience; after years of hearing stories, they have a richer, more complete mental catalog of critical situations they might confront during a fire and the appropriate responses to those situations. Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. (Location 277)

To summarize, here’s our checklist for creating a successful idea: a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story. A clever observer will note that this sentence can be compacted into the acronym SUCCESs. (Location 283)

This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind. (Location 311)

“Over time we’ve come to understand more and more about what makes people successful in complex operations.” He believes that plans are useful, in the sense that they are proof that planning has taken place. The planning process forces people to think through the right issues. But as for the plans themselves, Kolditz says, “They just don’t work on the battlefield.” So, in the 1980s the Army adapted its planning process, inventing a concept called Commander’s Intent (CI). CI is a crisp, plain-talk statement that appears at the top of every order, specifying the plan’s goal, the desired end-state of an operation. (Location 401)

Commander’s Intent manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders. When people know the desired destination, they’re free to improvise, as needed, in arriving there. (Location 411)

The Combat Maneuver Training Center, the unit in charge of military simulations, recommends that officers arrive at the Commander’s Intent by asking themselves two questions: If we do nothing else during tomorrow’s mission, we must _________________. The single, most important thing that we must do tomorrow is ________________. (Location 418)

If we’re to succeed, the first step is this: Be simple. Not simple in terms of “dumbing down” or “sound bites.” You don’t have to speak in monosyllables to be simple. What we mean by “simple” is finding the core of the idea. “Finding the core” means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence. To get to the core, we’ve got to weed out superfluous and tangential elements. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is weeding out ideas that may be really important but just aren’t the most important idea. (Location 426)

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” A designer of simple ideas should aspire to the same goal: knowing how much can be wrung out of an idea before it begins to lose its essence. (Location 434)

Forced prioritization is really painful. Smart people recognize the value of all the material. They see nuance, multiple perspectives—and because they fully appreciate the complexities of a situation, they’re often tempted to linger there. This tendency to gravitate toward complexity is perpetually at war with the need to prioritize. (Location 506)

PUNCH LINE: Avoid burying the lead. Don’t start with something interesting but irrelevant in hopes of entertaining the audience. Instead, work to make the core message itself more interesting. (Location 638)

Adams can’t possibly be personally involved in the vast majority of these hundreds of small decisions. But his employees don’t suffer from decision paralysis, because Adams’s Commander’s Intent is clear: “Names, names, and names.” Adams can’t be everywhere. But by finding the core and communicating it clearly, he has made himself everywhere. That’s the power of a sticky idea. (Location 696)

We’ve seen that compact ideas are stickier, but that compact ideas alone aren’t valuable—only ideas with profound compactness are valuable. So, to make a profound idea compact you’ve got to pack a lot of meaning into a little bit of messaging. And how do you do that? You use flags. You tap the existing memory terrain of your audience. You use what’s already there. (Location 802)

People are tempted to tell you everything, with perfect accuracy, right up front, when they should be giving you just enough info to be useful, then a little more, then a little more. (Location 874)

The most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern. Humans adapt incredibly quickly to consistent patterns. Consistent sensory stimulation makes us tune out: Think of the hum of an air conditioner, or traffic noise, or the smell of a candle, or the sight of a bookshelf. We may become consciously aware of these things only when something changes: The air conditioner shuts off. Your spouse rearranges the books. (Location 973)

Surprise makes us want to find an answer—to resolve the question of why we were surprised—and big surprises call for big answers. If we want to motivate people to pay attention, we should seize the power of big surprises. (Location 1043)

Another example we discussed in Chapter 1 was Southwest Airlines’ proverb “THE low-cost airline.” Again, most Southwest staffers and customers know that Southwest is a discount airline. In that context, the proverb seems intuitive. It was only when Kelleher put teeth in the proverb—refusing to offer chicken salad to customers even if they really wanted it—that its meaning sank in. Before Kelleher, an average staffer’s guessing machine might have predicted, “We want to please our customers in a low-cost way.” After Kelleher, the guessing machine was refined to “We will be THE low-cost airline, even if it means intentionally disregarding some of our customers’ preferences.” (Location 1092) - Note: What seemingly reasonable thing are you willing to give up in your unabashed pursuit of your primary objective?

So, a good process for making your ideas stickier is: (1) Identify the central message you need to communicate—find the core; (2) Figure out what is counterintuitive about the message—i.e., What are the unexpected implications of your core message? Why isn’t it already happening naturally? (3) Communicate your message in a way that breaks your audience’s guessing machines along the critical, counterintuitive dimension. Then, once their guessing machines have failed, help them refine their machines. (Location 1097)

Common sense is the enemy of sticky messages. When messages sound like common sense, they float gently in one ear and out the other. And why shouldn’t they? If I already intuitively “get” what you’re trying to tell me, why should I obsess about remembering it? The danger, of course, is that what sounds like common sense often isn’t, as with the Hoover Adams and Southwest examples. It’s your job, as a communicator, to expose the parts of your message that are uncommon sense. (Location 1101)

“Curiosity is the intellectual need to answer questions and close open patterns. (Location 1263)

Curiosity, he says, happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge. Loewenstein argues that gaps cause pain. When we want to know something but don’t, it’s like having an itch that we need to scratch. To take away the pain, we need to fill the knowledge gap. We sit patiently through bad movies, even though they may be painful to watch, because it’s too painful not to know how they end. (Location 1282)

To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from “What information do I need to convey?” to “What questions do I want my audience to ask?” (Location 1332)

Curiosity comes from gaps in our knowledge. (Location 1367)

Unexpected ideas, by opening a knowledge gap, tease and flirt. They mark a big red X on something that needs to be discovered but don’t necessarily tell you how to get there. And, as we’ll see, a red X of spectacular size can end up driving the actions of thousands of people for many years. (Location 1415)

Both of these unexpected ideas set up big knowledge gaps—but not so big that they seemed insurmountable. Kennedy didn’t propose a “man on Mercury,” and Ibuka didn’t propose an “implantable radio.” Each goal was audacious and provocative, but not paralyzing. Any engineer who heard the “man on the moon” speech must have begun brainstorming immediately: “Well, first we’d need to solve this problem, then we’d need to develop this technology, then. . (Location 1469)

Concrete language helps people, especially novices, understand new concepts. Abstraction is the luxury of the expert. If you’ve got to teach an idea to a room full of people, and you aren’t certain what they know, concreteness is the only safe language. (Location 1574)

Yale researcher Eric Havelock studies tales that have been passed down by word of mouth, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. He notes that these tales are characterized by lots of concrete actions, with few abstractions. Why? The ancient Greeks certainly had no problem with abstraction—this was the society that produced Plato and Aristotle, after all. Havelock believes that the stories evolved away from abstraction over time. When they were passed along from generation to generation, the more memorable concrete details survived and the abstractions evaporated. (Location 1614)

Memory, then, is not like a single filing cabinet. It is more like Velcro. If you look at the two sides of Velcro material, you’ll see that one is covered with thousands of tiny hooks and the other is covered with thousands of tiny loops. When you press the two sides together, a huge number of hooks get snagged inside the loops, and that’s what causes Velcro to seal. Your brain hosts a truly staggering number of loops. The more hooks an idea has, the better it will cling to memory. Your childhood home has a gazillion hooks in your brain. A new credit card number has one, if it’s lucky. (Location 1677)

But if concreteness is so powerful, why do we slip so easily into abstraction? The reason is simple: because the difference between an expert and a novice is the ability to think abstractly. New jurors are struck by lawyers’ personalities and factual details and courtroom rituals. Meanwhile, judges weigh the current case against the abstract lessons of past cases and legal precedent. Biology students try to remember whether reptiles lay eggs or not. Biology teachers think in terms of the grand system of animal taxonomy. (Location 1720)

When Boeing prepared to launch the design of the 727 passenger plane in the 1960s, its managers set a goal that was deliberately concrete: The 727 must seat 131 passengers, fly nonstop from Miami to New York City, and land on Runway 4-22 at La Guardia. (The 4-22 runway was chosen for its length—less than a mile, which was much too short for any of the existing passenger jets.) With a goal this concrete, Boeing effectively coordinated the actions of thousands of experts in various aspects of engineering or manufacturing. Imagine how much harder it would have been to build a 727 whose goal was to be “the best passenger plane in the world.” (Location 1765)

Researchers get excited about pushing the boundaries of a technology, making products that are complex and sophisticated, while customers generally seek out products that are easy and reliable. The desires of researchers and customers don’t always dovetail. (Location 1778)

Concreteness helped this team of experts coordinate. A diverse group of engineers, accustomed to contemplating difficult technology problems, suddenly came face-to-face with the Ferrari family. By grappling with one family’s concrete needs—their tickets and reservations and photos—they did something remarkable: They took abstract ideas from their research labs and turned them into a family picture on a roller-coaster ride. (Location 1795)

Concreteness creates a shared “turf” on which people can collaborate. Everybody in the room feels comfortable that they’re tackling the same challenge. Even experts—even the Kleiner Perkins venture capitalists, the rock stars of the technology world—benefit from concrete talk that puts them on common ground. (Location 1862)

This message is from James Grant, who was the director of UNICEF for many years. Grant always traveled with a packet filled with one teaspoon of salt and eight teaspoons of sugar—the ingredients for Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) when mixed with a liter of water. When he met with the prime ministers of developing countries, he would take out his packet of salt and sugar and say, “Do you know that this costs less than a cup of tea and it can save hundreds of thousands of children’s lives in your country?” (Location 1888)

The moral is to find some way to invite people to the table, to help them bring their knowledge to bear. Here, a prop works better than a scientific description. (Location 1906)

“I knew their demographics by heart. But it was a very different experience to walk into a customer’s home and experience a little bit of her life. I’ll never forget one woman, who had a toddler on her hip while she was mixing up dinner on the stove. We know that ‘convenience’ is an important attribute of our product, but it’s a different thing to see the need for convenience firsthand.” (Location 1923)

Only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why. • Only one in five was enthusiastic about their team’s and their organization’s goals. • Only one in five said they had a clear “line of sight” between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals. • Only 15 percent felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals. • Only 20 percent fully trusted the organization they work for. Pretty sobering stuff. It’s also pretty abstract. You probably walk away from these stats thinking something like “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction and confusion in most companies.” Then Covey superimposes a very human metaphor over the statistics. He says, “If, say, a soccer team had these same scores, only 4 of the 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs. Only 2 of the 11 would care. Only 2 of the 11 would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do. And all but 2 players would, in some way, be competing against their own team members rather than the opponent.” The soccer analogy generates a human context for the statistics. It creates a sense of drama and a sense of movement. We can’t help but imagine the actions of the two players trying to score a goal, being opposed at every stage by the rest of their team. Why does the analogy work? It relies on our schema of soccer teams and the fact that this schema is somehow cleaner, more well-defined, than our schemas of organizations. It’s more vivid to think of a lack of cooperation on a soccer team—where teamwork is paramount—than in a corporation. And this is exactly Covey’s point: Corporations should operate like teams, but they don’t. Humanizing the statistics gives the argument greater wallop. (Location 2197)

When it comes to statistics, our best advice is to use them as input, not output. Use them to make up your mind on an issue. Don’t make up your mind and then go looking for the numbers to support yourself—that’s asking for temptation and trouble. But if we use statistics to help us make up our minds, we’ll be in a great position to share the pivotal numbers with others, as did Geoff Ainscow and the Beyond War supporters. (Location 2245)

LINE:When we use statistics, the less we rely on the actual numbers the better. The numbers inform us about the underlying relationship, but there are better ways to illustrate the underlying relationship than the numbers themselves. Juxtaposing the deer and the shark is similar to Ainscow’s use of BBs in a bucket. (Location 2293)

In this study they primed some people to think in an analytical way by asking questions such as, “If an object travels at five feet per minute, then by your calculations how many feet will it travel in 360 seconds?” Other people were primed to think in terms of feelings: “Please write down one word to describe how you feel when you hear the word ‘baby.’” Then both groups were given the Rokia letter. And, confirming the researchers’ theory, the analytically primed people gave less. When people were primed to feel before they read about Rokia, they gave $2.34, about the same as before. But when they were primed to calculate before they read about Rokia, they gave $1.26. These results are shocking. The mere act of calculation reduced people’s charity. Once we put on our analytical hat, we react to emotional appeals differently. We hinder our ability to feel. (Location 2543)

Caples says companies often emphasize features when they should be emphasizing benefits. “The most frequent reason for unsuccessful advertising is advertisers who are so full of their own accomplishments (the world’s best seed!) that they forget to tell us why we should buy (the world’s best lawn!).” An old advertising maxim says you’ve got to spell out the benefit of the benefit. In other words, people don’t buy quarter-inch drill bits. They buy quarter-inch holes so they can hang their children’s pictures. (Location 2728)

In 1954, a psychologist named Abraham Maslow surveyed the research in psychology about what motivates people. He boiled down volumes of existing research to a list of needs and desires that people try to fulfill: • Transcendence: help others realize their potential • Self-actualization: realize our own potential, self-fulfillment, peak experiences • Aesthetic: symmetry, order, beauty, balance • Learning: know, understand, mentally connect • Esteem: achieve, be competent, gain approval, independence, status • Belonging: love, family, friends, affection • Security: protection, safety, stability • Physical: hunger, thirst, bodily comfort (Location 2793)

How can we make people care about our ideas? We get them to take off their Analytical Hats. We create empathy for specific individuals. We show how our ideas are associated with things that people already care about. We appeal to their self-interest, but we also appeal to their identities—not only to the people they are right now but also to the people they would like to be (Location 3120)

Why do people talk shop? Part of the reason is simply Humanity 101—we want to talk to other people about the things that we have in common. (Location 3185)

The event-simulation group—the people who simulated how the events unfolded—did better on almost every dimension. Simulating past events is much more helpful than simulating future outcomes. In fact, the gap between the groups opened up immediately after the first session in the lab. By the first night, the event-simulation people were already experiencing a positive mood boost compared with the other two groups. When the groups returned a week later, the event simulators’ advantage had grown wider. They were more likely to have taken specific action to solve their problems. They were more likely to have sought advice and support from others. They were more likely to report that they had learned something and grown. (Location 3248)

Why does mental simulation work? It works because we can’t imagine events or sequences without evoking the same modules of the brain that are evoked in real physical activity. Brain scans show that when people imagine a flashing light, they activate the visual area of the brain; when they imagine someone tapping on their skin, they activate tactile areas of the brain. The activity of mental simulation is not limited to the insides of our heads. People who imagine words that start with b or p can’t resist subtle lip movements, and people who imagine looking at the Eiffel Tower can’t resist moving their eyes upward. Mental simulation can even alter visceral physical responses: When people drink water but imagine that it’s lemon juice, they salivate more. Even more surprisingly, when people drink lemon juice but imagine that it’s water, they salivate less. (Location 3258)

Mental simulation helped people weld better and throw darts better. Trombonists improved their playing, and competitive figure skaters improved their skating. Not surprisingly, mental practice is more effective when a task involves more mental activity (e.g., trombone playing) as opposed to physical activity (e.g., balancing), but the magnitude of gains from mental practice is large on average: Overall, mental practice alone produced about two thirds of the benefits of actual physical practice. The takeaway is simple: Mental simulation is not as good as actually doing something, but it’s the next best thing. And, to circle back to the world of sticky ideas, what we’re suggesting is that the right kind of story is, effectively, a simulation. Stories are like flight simulators for the brain. Hearing the nurse’s heart-monitor story isn’t like being there, but it’s the next best thing. (Location 3281)

The goal here is to learn how to spot the stories that have potential. When the Jared article hits our desk, we want to spot the crucial elements immediately. Guy faces huge obstacles and overcomes them—it’s a Challenge plot. Challenge plots inspire people to take on challenges and work harder. If that feeling is consistent with the goal you want to achieve, run with the story; (Location 3554)

Denning defines a springboard story as a story that lets people see how an existing problem might change. Springboard stories tell people about possibilities. One major advantage of springboard stories is that they combat skepticism and create buy-in. Denning says that the idea of telling stories initially violated his intuition. He had always believed in the value of being direct, and he worried that stories were too ambiguous, too peripheral, too anecdotal. He thought, “Why not spell out the message directly? Why go to the trouble and difficulty of trying to elicit the listener’s thinking indirectly, when it would be so much simpler if I come straight out in an abstract directive? Why not hit the listeners between the eyes?” The problem is that when you hit listeners between the eyes they respond by fighting back. The way you deliver a message to them is a cue to how they should react. If you make an argument, you’re implicitly asking them to evaluate your argument—judge it, debate it, criticize it—and then argue back, at least in their minds. (Location 3597)

Stories can almost single-handedly defeat the Curse of Knowledge. In fact, they naturally embody most of the SUCCESs framework. Stories are almost always Concrete. Most of them have Emotional and Unexpected elements. The hardest part of using stories effectively is making sure that they’re Simple—that they reflect your core message. (Location 3655)

The question we have to ask ourselves in any situation is this: Is the audience’s version of my message still core? In Chapter 1 (“Simple”), we discussed the importance of focusing on core messages—honing in on the most important truths that we need to communicate. If the world takes our ideas and changes them—or accepts some and discards others—all we need to decide is whether the mutated versions are still core. If they are—as with “It’s the economy, stupid”—then we should humbly embrace the audience’s judgment. Ultimately, the test of our success as idea creators isn’t whether people mimic our exact words, it’s whether we achieve our goals. (Location 3695)

Create curiosity gaps—tell people just enough for them to realize the piece that’s missing from their knowledge. (Location 3818)

Hold long-term interest: the “pocketable radio” and the “man on the moon.” (Location 3917)

HELP PEOPLE COORDINATE. Engineers vs. manufacturers: Find common ground at a shared level of understanding. Set common goals in tangible terms: Our plane will land on Runway 4-22. Make it real: The Ferraris go to Disney World. Why concreteness helps: white things versus white things in your refrigerator. Create a turf where people can bring their knowledge to bear: The VC pitch and the maroon portfolio. Clinic: Oral Rehydration Therapy. Talk about people, not data: Hamburger Helper’s in-home visits and “Saddleback Sam.” (Location 3923)

APPEAL TO IDENTITY. The firemen who rejected the popcorn popper. Understand how people make decisions based on identity. (Who am I? What kind of situation is this? And what do people like me do in this kind of situation?) Clinic: Why study algebra? Don’t mess with Texas: Texans don’t litter. Don’t forget the Curse of Knowledge—don’t assume, like the defenders of the duo piano, that others care at the same level that you do. (Location 3955)