Sunday, 25 October 2015

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck

“Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck”  by Chip and Dan Heath



I really enjoyed this book and am definitely going to read some of their other books. Although a lot of the examples come from business it is very relevant to educators and does talk about education and social change. Here are some of my notes:

The Six Principles for How to make Ideas Stick

The books discusses what makes an idea stick in the way Urban Legends seem to do. They outline six principles, you don’t have to use them all but the more you can use the stickier the idea should be. These are:

  • SIMPLICITY - Strip the idea down to its essential core idea. Beware the ‘Curse of Knowledge”, where experts find it hard to get down to the level needed by novices.  Think about the Commander’s Intent (see below).
  • UNEXPECTEDNESS -We need to generate interest and curiosity. One way to do this is to open up gaps in their knowledge and then fill them.
  • CONCRETENESS -Avoid the abstract, go for concrete examples. “We must explain our ideas in human terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information.”
  • CREDIBILITY -The source has to be believable. For example, we can help people to test the ideas out for themselves.
  • EMOTIONS -To make people care about the idea they have to feel something.
  • STORYTELLING -We have an inbuilt interest in stories as they “act as a kind of mental flight simulator”.
  • which make … SUCCESs!
Clarity of Message, the Commander’s Intent and Battle Plans!

I was very interested to learn that the US army invests a lot of time in planning but they often turn out to be useless once out in the field. 

“ ‘The trite expression we always use is No plan survives contact with the enemy,’ says Colonel Tom Kolditz, from West Point.”

He goes on to say how the planning process is useful but how the plans themselves don’t work. This is something we have often talked about when discussing our planning at school.

Instead the US army uses something called the Commander’s Intent (CI). 
“The CI s 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….The CI never specifies so much detail that it risks being rendered obsolete by unpredictable events. ….(it) manages to align the behaviour of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders.”

Two questions can be used to help develop the Commander’s Intent, and these are:
“If we do nothing else during tomorrow’s mission, we must …..”
“The single, most important thing that we must do tomorrow is ….”

The CI reminded me of our start of the school year, where in week one our focus was to build relationships and trust with the pupils and our second week, where the focus was to share expectations about classroom routines. And often I start a week out with a goal such as to pay closer attention to a pupil who I am concerned about.


Burying the Lead

I learned that journalists have to start their stories with the most important information, which is called the lead. After this the information is presented in decreasing order of importance. This helps if an editor needs to put in a new story as all they will have to do is cut as much as they need from the end of the other story. It also keeps the reader’s attention. This may be a useful way to think about finding the core message for teaching lessons. I could also try talking to the pupils at the end of a lesson and discuss with them the key messages from the lesson and then see what order they would prioritise them. 

Analogies and Working with What is There

A good way to keep things simple is to use an analogy. They work because it is easier to explain what a pomelo is by using what a person already knows, it’s a large grapefruit , than explaining it’s individual characteristics, e.g. it is the largest citrus fruit, the rind is very thick but also soft …etc.  This is because we are using the person’t existing schemas (=concepts or category. In teaching we are doing this all the time with our learners and trying to build up new ideas, e.g when we talk about friction we would tap into the children’s knowledge about how it is different to slide on the their knees on the gym hall floor (something my learners with their young knees seem to love doing!) than do the same on the carpet (ouch!). 

The best analogy is a generative metaphor. The book talks about how Disney call its employees “cast members” so they have to audition for the job, when working are on stage, they meet the guests (the public) and wear costumes (uniforms). This also gives them a steer on how they are expected to act whilst they are working. 

We use that at school, for example when talking about developing a growth mindset we use the generative metaphor of growing a plant for developing our minds.

My Teacher Takeaways!

  1. Think about which of the Six Principles of How to Make an Idea Stick (S.U.C.C.E.S.s) I could use when lesson planning.
  2. What would the “Commander’s Intent” be for a lesson?  Is it always the learning intention? Could I use this idea to help direct the work of learning assistants, e.g. “If Child X does nothing else this lesson, we want them to become more confident in following a checklist of what to do when you are stuck.”
  3. Don’t “bury the lead”, make sure everyone is aware of what the main message of the lesson is.
  4. Build on what they know and help them to make links to their previous learning.
  5. Play with different “generative metaphors”. How is learning like … a journey, a garden, a zoo?