Context Book – Made to Stick

Cover of the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

I read the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. The authors introduce 6 SUCCES principles for making your ideas sticky.


Find the core of an idea, and strip it down to its most critical essence. Elegance and prioritization….not dumbing down!

WARNING—you may have to discard a lot of great ideas to let the most important shine. Libraries provide a LOT of services to communities….but what is the most critical essence?


We cannot succeed if our messages don’t break through the clutter to get people’s attention.

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How can we break the pattern and get their attention? How can we create curiosity. Curiosity happens when we discover a gap in our knowledge. This becomes an itch that we need to scratch.

KICKER—we need to OPEN gaps, before we can CLOSE them. 


Concrete ideas are easier to remember. Concreteness builds on existing understanding. 

Concreteness helps us understand and construct higher, more abstract insights on the building blocks of our existing knowledge and perceptions.

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WARNING—it can feel very unnatural to speak concretely about something you have known intimately for years.


You need to find sources of authority, or even antiauthority, that you can lean on. Vivid details lend to your story’s credibility. 


For people to take ACTION, they have to CARE. It is feelings that drive people to act, not calculations or stats. There are three strategies for making people care: associations, self-interest, and appealing to identity.

WARNING—the curse of knowledge can strike quickly on this one. You have to convince someone else why they should care. When answering the question of why someone should care, use three “why’s?” to drill down to the core values and principles. 


 Stories can almost single handedly defeat the curst of knowledge. Stories embody most of the 6 sticky principles. Stories are almost always concrete.

If someone has not experienced it for themselves…stories are the next best thing. 


Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like to not know it.

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Librarians live and breathe library services on a daily basis. Many librarians I know have been librarians for most of their professional lives. They know libraries are more than just warehouses for books. They know libraries provide internet and technology training, and 3-D printing, and job training, and a plethora of other community services. We KNOW that people are still using services.


But we are still struggling with the old stereotypes. We are still struggling to justify our existence to the taxpayers who fund us. We are still having to organized to combat uninformed Forbes opinion articles.

We are cursed with knowledge. We know our missions, we know our services, we know our worth…And our knowledge may be making it difficult to effectively communicate our mission to our communities so that is STICKS and THEY go to bat for us against the poorly written Forbes articles. 

The book, at its core, is a method of transforming and communicating ideas. Within the context of this class, I kept thinking back to how libraries need to communicate their mission, or redefined mission, in order to build trust, transparency, and participation in their communities. Without these three things, libraries will continue to struggle to stay relevant in a constantly changing world where budgets and staff are shrinking and stretched. I think the time is now for us to redefine ourselves and our services and communicate boldly what the future will look like.

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