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ISBN 9781400064281 Published Jan. 2007
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Posted March 15, 2013 7:31 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
Each day, all day, we make decisions. Often, these many decisions are simple: what to wear, where to eat, and how best to churn through the tasks on our to-do list. Sometimes the stakes are higher: how should we address an employee issue, should we make a career change, or do we stay the course with our business plan? In either case, we generally narrow the choices down to two solutions, create a mental list of pros and cons, and make our decision based on the results.
According to Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, we’re doing it all wrong. Our gut instincts are loaded with bias, and the pros and cons we create—even though our intent is to be objective—are based on those biased gut reactions:
Generating distinct options is even more difficult when our minds settle into certain well-worn grooves. Two of those grooves are common states of mind, studied widely by researchers, that play a role in almost every decision we make. One is triggered when we think about avoiding bad things, and one is triggered when we think about pursuing good things. When we’re in one state, we tend to ignore the other.
Instead, the Heaths recommend building a process by which to make better decisions. To start, they quote Steve Cole, VP of R&D at HopeLab, who said, “Any time in life you’re tempted to think, ‘Should I do this OR that?’ instead, ask yourself, ‘Is there a way I can do this AND that?” This kind of broader thinking about a situation is what the authors find an innovative, more risk-averse method of deciding what to do. From there, the Heaths explore a variety of process building scenarios: consider opposites, find previous solutions to the same problem, overcome short-term emotion, and more. And with each scenario, they present real examples of these processes (and their outcomes) in action.
Those who have read the Heaths’ previous books, Made to Stick and Switch, know they are great writers. Their books are filled with clever stories, detailed research told in a relatable way, and as a result, each page simply makes you think, and think more clearly. But what elevates their books above many others is that they operate both as “how-to” guides as well as social insight. You can read them to change what you do or how you think, and in the process, you’ll understand the world a bit better. Because decision-making is one of the great challenges for leaders, entrepreneurs, and really anyone trying to manage a career, this book is an important one.
Jack Covert Selects - Blah Blah Blah
Posted Nov. 10, 2011 4:03 p.m. by 800-ceo-read
We’ve been fortunate to spend time with Dan Roam over the years, and his new book, Blah Blah Blah is as high-energy, insightful, and creative as he is.
Blah Blah Blah is a book that may just be impossible to give justice to in a review. From cover to cover, Dan Roam uses his great skill at communicating through words and pictures to inform us, charm us, and convince us to accept his belief that ideas become clearer when they are represented by pictures. Not that words aren’t important—this book is full of them—but Roam explains that:
Words are abstractions, the ultimate mental shorthand. When we know what they mean, words instantly call to mind ideas, images, feelings, and memories. When we all speak the same language, our words offer near-perfect communications efficiency. … But the extraordinary verbal efficiency of words also has a steep downside. Like all abstractions, words are by definition distinct from the actual “things” they represent. If we are unclear in our own mind about which specific “thing” our word means or if we’re unclear when we share words with other people, the whole system crashes.
Roam’s solution? Make communication less of an abstraction by using pictures to help guide understanding, to learn more quickly and to share ideas more clearly.
Start with Roam’s method of creating a Visual Grammar: “When we say a word, we should draw a picture.” Easy enough. Then combine that grammar into Vivid Thinking, which is more than just linking word pictures together, but about combining them in a specific way that reflects the complexity of our ideas—because Vivid Thinking is Balanced Thinking. As Roam writes:
Verbal mind, visual mind. They see the same world, but they don’t see it the same way.
This is important: drawing pictures as Roam suggests is not about simplifying. Nor does it dumb down our ideas. Instead, it makes them more concrete, more sticky. In fact, reading through Blah Blah Blah reminds me of my first reading of Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Perhaps it’s Roam’s use of the word FOREST as a mnemonic device for his 6 essentials of vivid ideas. (The Heath brothers used the word SUCCESS as a mnemonic to remember their keys to sticky ideas.) FOREST stands for Form, Only the Essentials, Recognizable, Evolving, Span Differences, Targeted.
The use of FOREST is particularly memorable because of its relations to the phrase, “He couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” For Roam’s book offers easy to remember, easy to implement ideas that will help you see (and communicate) the forest and the trees.
Jack Covert Selects - Switch
Posted Feb. 12, 2010 6:29 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
Chip and Dan Heath, brothers and scholars, won the inaugural 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year Award with their first book, Made to Stick. That book, despite being a newborn, also made our list of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. When the publisher sent me the advance copy of Switch, I was concerned about the “sophomore slump” that happens in sports and music, whether due to a true drop in quality or critical backlash due to expectations. Still, I dropped everything and stretched out on my couch to read, and I can tell you that Switch might even be better than Made to Stick.
In Made to Stick, the Heaths offered a methodology for how to make your ideas memorable. And, of course, one of the things the Heath brothers excel in is creating their own sticky ideas. They use clever acronyms, catchy phrases, and unusual connections that we can easily remember and reference for future situations. In Made to Stick, it was SUCCESs, and the “curse of knowledge” among other memorable lessons. Switch is about making change happen, despite our tendency to fight it. Here the Heaths teach us about the Rider—or rational mind—and the Elephant—our emotional mind— and how change needs a partnership between the two in order to “shape the path” ahead. We also learn about TBU—true but useless—which, undiagnosed, can lead to decision paralysis.
To explain an antidote to decision paralysis, the Heaths tell of a small community in South Dakota that had been losing young people at an unsustainable rate. A group of high school students decided to do something. In the past, decision paralysis ruled efforts like this because the problem was so overwhelming and the potential answers so numerous. The students commissioned a survey and discovered that half the residents shopped outside they county. The first step was to ask the residents to support local businesses, which in turn became the first step in a successful revitalization program.
The Heath brothers are teachers at heart, and Switch features the same high level of research-driven data brought to life through world-class stories as Made to Stick, while also offering loads of practical, how-to advice on how to start and maintain your next change initiative, whether in your business or in your personal life. The ultimate takeaway is that by recognizing that oftentimes it is the situation that must change, not the person, we are able to take action and not fear the unknown.
Jack Covert Selects: Made to Stick
Posted Jan. 10, 2007 5:19 a.m. by jack
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Random House, January 2007, $24.95 Hardcover, 288 Pages, ISBN 1400064287
One of the perks about being in the book industry is meeting some really smart people. In November, at our Author Pow-Wow, I got to meet Dan Heath, one of the authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Not only is Dan personable, interesting and cool, but he's also brilliant. You'll know that the instant you pick up Made to Stick.
Dan, a consultant at Duke, and his brother Chip, a professor at Stanford Business School, came to realize that while their professional work looked different, the core of the work was the same. They were each trying to get at what makes ideas successful once they’re out into the world. So they teamed up to write Made to Stick. Borrowing Malcolm Gladwell's concept of "sticky" ideas, the Brothers Heath examined everything from urban legends to public health scares to elementary school teaching strategies to political campaigns. Made to Stick is the kind of book that breaks out of the traditional business book market and offers solid, useful information to all types of readers.
Dan and Chip know that there's not a simple formula for making an idea stick. What they care about is identifying what's common among sticky ideas. They found six principles that apply to all sticky ideas: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories. (Cleverly, they form an acronym for "success.")
"No special expertise is needed to apply these principles. There are no licensed stickologists. Moreover, many of the principles have a commonsense ring to them: Didn’t most of us already know the intuition that we should be 'simple' and 'use stories'? It’s not as though there's a powerful constituency for overcomplicated, lifeless prose."
I love the Heaths' straightforward yet elegant writing style. And the book has substance too. As you read, you will experience tons of 'lightbulb' moments, when you instantly recognize their ideas as true and immediately applicable. Here’s an example:
"So why aren't we deluged with brilliantly designed sticky ideas? Why is our life filled with more process memos than proverbs? Sadly, there is a villain in our story. The villain is a natural psychological tendency that consistently confounds our ability to create ideas using these principles. It's called the Curse of Knowledge."
They explain that the more we know about a subject, the less we're actually able to craft it into an idea that will stick. The Heaths offer strategies for defeating the Curse of Knowledge and other roadblocks to creating sticky ideas. And you'll have fun while learning about Curiosity Gaps, the Velcro Theory of Memory, and the Sinatra Test
So, make room on your bookshelf. Much like the subject it tackles, Made to Stick is magnetic, sticky. You're going to start seeing this book everywhere.