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On to Chip and Dan Heath’s next principle for making ideas stick…drum roll please…. CONCRETE.
Like every good book, Made to Stick has a villain. The villain is The Curse of Knowledge. Everyone who knows a subject well is subject to The Curse of Knowledge. I remember my sweet daddy trying to help me with my math homework, but try as he might, he just couldn’t help me. He knew too much beyond what I knew, and he couldn’t explain it to me without using all that extra knowledge which just left me more in the dark. His Curse of Knowlege kept him from explaining long division to me in a simple way that I could understand.
I think Christians are especially vulnerable to this trap. We speak in churchy language with biblical referrances that much of our culture misses when we could say the same things in very understandable ways.
Making our messages concretemeans that we move beyond Christian-eze and abstractions to express ourselves in concrete language. Personal, relatable stories are one powerful way to make our messages concrete. We’ll talk a lot more about stories (it’s a whole principle) in a few weeks.
Another way to make ideas concrete is to use what the Heath brothers call “memory velcro” and a teacher friend of mine calls “memory hooks”. These are parts of a message or story where memory “hangs”. For example, the more details you give about the day you went sledding–the fuzzy red scarf, the melted snow in your boots, the blue sky after the storm–the more “hooks” your brain has to remember the story or idea.
The Heath brothers explain that the trick to making ideas concrete is to make sure that you are using a “universal language” that is clear and understandable to everyone in the room. It takes a little work to proof your work, but it helps to have a clear idea of who might be in the room.
Concrete…now that’s really sticky.