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Why some ideas stick and others don’t

Michael S. Hopkins, Christian Science Monitor
The ‘stickiest’ ideas – regardless of merit – have a lot in common. This book explains what that is.
…Coauthors (and brothers) Chip and Dan Heath – a Stanford Business School professor and an education entrepreneur respectively – spent a decade disassembling and trying to understand the inner workings of memorable, persuasive ideas, no matter what kind of packages they came in.

They studied political speeches, urban legends, news reports, management directives, and marketing messages like Subway’s – not to mention culture-crossing proverbs, the various fables of Aesop, and the many soups of chicken (for the soul).

It didn’t matter whether the ideas themselves were good or bad, just that they’d “stuck.”

…What the Heaths discovered was that the stickiest ideas, regardless of intrinsic merit, had a lot in common. Or, more accurately, the ways they were presented had a lot in common.

How to spell success

Each of these ideas, as conveyed, could be described using one or more of just these six à la carte attributes: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story-containing. Line up the first letters of those characteristics, add a lower-case “s” (poetic license), and you’ve got the handy acronym SUCCESs.

…In separate chapters for each of the six principal characteristics, “Made to Stick” explores in depth exactly how, say, concreteness provides more hooks for recall (the “Velcro theory of memory”) and why abstraction is often what unintentionally results from expertise.

“This is the Curse of Knowledge,” the Heaths write, describing what they consider the single biggest reason so many messages fail to stick. “Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. [It] becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.”
(23 Jan 2007)
UPDATE: Always a problem – how to present a complex technical problem to the public. Climate change activists and experts have had conferences and ongoing discussions on the subject. Peak oil activists, much less so. -BA

Viridian Greens: “We Are Winning!”

Bruce Sterling, Viridian Note 00487 via WorldChanging

WorldChanging editor Alex Steffen
Bruce’s latest Viridian note is too good not to republish in its entirety. I think we still have a ways to go before we can confidently declare victory (it is one thing to get people to agree that there’s a problem, and quite another to get them to agree to tackle that problem with solutions of the proper magnitude), but nonetheless, it’s sweet to see such a sea change in public opinion well under way.

Here’s Bruce:

The Viridian struggle has met with success. We are winning.

The boiled frog is jumping. It turns out that a boiled frog always jumps. To think otherwise was a mere urban legend. The frog won’t jump free from its dire, life-threatening menace at the first effort, but next year will be even hotter and scarier, and the frog will jump harder. From now on, the frog will jump all the time. Further urging to jump will not be required from the likes of us Viridians. The frog has gotten the message. We are winning!

…The 2012 deadline for Kyoto is already a dead letter, because Kyoto was far too weak and too slow. We are going to see a series of monstrous efforts by large enterprises: private, local, state and national, to save whatever can be saved of the previous natural order. The primary motivator of this effort will be fear. The climate is changing much more quickly and more severely than anyone suspected it would. A rapid, ruthless, headlong clean-tech techno- revolution – in fact, a series of them – is the only global option with a ghost of a chance to save our smoldering planetary bacon. That’s coming; it is under way.

When the Davos Economic Forum steals your clothes, there’s no reason left to wear them any more. We are winning. The Great and the Good agree with us. They’re more scared than we ever were.
(29 Jan 2007)
Science fiction writer Bruce Sterling is the inspiration behind WorldChanging and other Viridian efforts. I only have one wish – could someone format his Viridian Notes so that they are easier to read? About half an hour spent inserting “blockquote” tags; and removing parentheses – that’s all I ask! -BA

UPDATE: Big Gav, another Viridian admirer notes: “for those who aren’t familiar with them, Bruce’s interjections are often marked with ((())) “.

Hand-made vacation

Chris Welsch, Star-Tribune (US)
At North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minn., students learn a craft — from building boats to making sausage — by practicing alongside masters.

Colleen O’Connell manned the crank. Arla Kroger loaded the pale, slender sleeve of pig intestine onto the nozzle of the extruding machine. A Swedish potato sausage was about to be born.
“You don’t want to get greedy,” said Craig Peterson, our bearded and bespectacled instructor. “If it’s a 40-foot-long intestine, don’t put it all on there. It’ll get sticky and blow out the side.” ..

This winter marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of North House Folk School. A handful of Grand Marais craftspeople had a hunch that there would be students interested in learning traditional northern skills — from building snowshoes to making wooden boats to knitting hats. They were right. The first year, there were 240 students. Last year, there were nearly 10,000.

North House was modeled on the teachings of N.F.S. Grundtvig, a mid-19th-century Danish priest and philosopher who believed the educational system of the day was stifling students instead of stimulating them.

“Grundtvig believed that education was about remembering — remembering where we came from,” said Mark Hansen, a social worker and boat builder in Grand Marais who is one of the founders of the school. “Society does a good job of creating alienation — making us feel like cogs in a machine. Making something with your hands is an expression of individuality and capability.” ..
(28 Jan 2007)
Contributor Mike Benz writes: Where else can you learn blacksmithing, timberframing, tool making, wood carving, boat building, and a host of other traditional crafts?

U.S. consumers, companies feeling green

It took a war, a deadly hurricane season and an unusually mild winter, but U.S. consumers seem ready to cut back on energy usage for good.

While it’s hard to shake a reputation as obese Americans tooling down the freeway in gas-guzzling SUVs, economists and business leaders say consumers are increasingly aware of oil-related environmental damage and national security risks, and they are prepared to do something about it.
(28 Jan 2007)