Thursday, February 17, 2011

Made to Stick, with hat tip to George Orwell

Chip and Dan Health's book, Made to Stick, is a fun read. The sub-title is a good one; "Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die."

Chip and Dan created a mnemonic framework for evaluating ideas and ensuring their stickiness: SUCCES.

  1. Simplicity
  2. Unexpectedness
  3. Concreteness
  4. Credibility
  5. Emotions
  6. Stories
The Heaths contrast "sticky" language with the all too common, obtuse jargon many tech companies suffer from. 

Orwell's great essay, "Politics and the English Language" is highly relevant to "sticky" positioning. His essay skewers political writing and the overly obtuse, self-important, self-referential writing common to academic publications.

His rules follow:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
  2. Never use a long word when a short word will do
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
  4. Never use the passive when you can use the active
  5. Never use a foreign word, scientific phrase, or jargon work if you can think of an everday English equivalent 
As we all work to bring technology ideas to market, it pays to think of how to make the ideas "stick." Far too many sites and PDFs sound like the passage below, selected by Orwell for ridicule and an example of what not to do!

"On the one side we have the free personality; by definition it is not 
neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as 
they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval 
keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern 
would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is 
natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But ON THE OTHER SIDE, the 
social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these 
self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the 
very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of 
mirrors for either personality or fraternity? 
         Essay on psychology in POLITICS (New York) "

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