So far we’ve seen the principles of simplicity, unexpectedness and concreteness. Here are the last three principles from Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
Principle 4 – Credibility. An idea must carry it’s own credentials, thereby having internal credibility. The Heath’s suggest this comes from concreteness, as opposed to vague, statistical or abstract statement. However, influencing an audience with an idea involves the support materials chosen as well as the statement of the idea itself. Using real people in support material (eg stories of real people) adds credibility to an idea (more so than quotes from experts or celebrities, although those have a place).
Principle 5 – Emotional. The best way to make people care about an idea is to help them feel something. Again, concreteness matters, for we are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions. Excess may paralyze (for instance, the overwhelming need of the masses), but an individual will stir the heart.
Principle 6 – Stories. Stories are like flight simulators for the brain, according to the book. As preachers we may be preaching a story anyway, but even if not, it might be worth considering how to use the power of story to simulate action in response to the idea.
The summary of the book is certainly worth pondering for preachers wrestling with ideas. According to the Heaths, for an idea to stick it has to be useful and lasting. A “sticky” idea makes the audience pay attention, understand, remember, agree/believe, care, and be able to act on it. This list translates into unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, story-related ideas communicated with succinct clarity that has the simplicity and profundity of a proverb.
They were talking business. But ideas are ideas, and if we handle the Bible well, then the ideas we are handling and presenting should be worth more effort than any name brand!