By Heath Chip and Dan
By Heath Chip and Dan
As the co-founder of Thinkwell, a publishing company that creates multimedia textbooks, Dan’s challenge was to figure out the best way to put together one of these books. In the process, he observed a number of outstanding teachers and noticed that they used comparable methods in spite of their different personal as well as teaching styles. Meanwhile, his brother Chip, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford, had been researching the reasons for the unusual stickiness of some ideas regardless of their quality or truth. He and his students analyzed hundreds of sticky ideas and found that they came in several categories, including jokes, urban legends, proverbs, wartime rumors, and conspiracy theories. Though some were obviously false, categories such as proverbs set forth truths that managed to hold their own across time, language, and culture.
In 2004, after about a decade of independent research, brothers Dan and Chip Heath realized that they had been working on a common problem from different but complementary angles and with complementary skills—Chip’s teaching and research skills and Dan’s practical experience and writing ability. Borrowing the term “stickiness” from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, which explored the similar topic of why some trends take off and others don’t, the authors focused on defining the specific characteristics that constitute a “sticky” idea.
Dan, formerly a Harvard Business School researcher, is currently a consultant at Duke’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship while Chip continues his professorship at Stanford. Chip graduated with a B.S. from Texas A&M, then earned his Ph.D. in Psychology at Stanford. Dan graduated with a B.A. from Texas University and received his MBA from Harvard Business School where he worked as a researcher. The brothers have co-authored two books, Made to Stick and Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard and they are available for speaking engagements as well as workshops and training sessions.
Made to Stickis brothers Chip and Dan Heath’s colorful analysis of what kinds of ideas stick in people’s minds and why. But idea “stickiness” is not just confined to memorability: the idea has to have the power to change people’s thinking and behavior,as well. A prime example of this is the proverb whose influence spans the millennia, cutting across differences of culture, language, ethnicity, and religion.
From their research on the nature of sticky ideas, the Heath brothers came up with an acronym that represents the six primary components of “stickiness.” They call it the SUCCESs formula, which stands for
Simple Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories
Most of the book revolves around the six chapters that discuss these components in detail. Each chapter also contains what the authors have termed “Idea Clinics,” which are designed to demonstrate how the idea being discussed might work in context. According to the authors, Idea Clinics are optional reading but may help the reader to understand the point in a more concrete, hands-on way.
Another main idea that runs throughout the book is the Curse of Knowledge. A brilliant concept is worthless if it can’t be effectively communicated, and the Curse of Knowledge is the primary barrier to this. The Curse of Knowledge can be summarized as follows: the more expert a person becomes in a given field or aspect of life, the more likely he or she may forget what it’s like to not have the same background and training. The knowledge will become so ingrained that it’s taken for granted. Communicating an idea to an audience lacking the same background becomes an exercise in futility—like speaking to someone in a foreign language—unless the communicator learns how to link the idea to the audience’s own knowledge and experience base. This requires knowing and understanding what motivates the people you are trying to reach and then imagining things from their perspective. To put it in concrete terms: communicating a complex concept to preschoolers is not the same as communicating it to a roomful of philosophy professors. The SUCCESs formula is the authors’ solution to this issue.
The authors stress that powerful ideas do not have to be created as long as we understand how to spot them, and they outline the tools that enable us to do this effectively and easily. These include understanding and utilizing the SUCCESs formula, maintaining a strong awareness of the core idea, and being familiar with the different categories of stories and their uses.
Finally, though Made to Stick centers around six or seven main concepts, it explains each of these with a number of additional specifics that show us how to apply each component of the SUCCESs formula. True to the authors’ own teaching, these are further supported by plenty of anecdotes that bring the ideas to life. Throughout the book, we meet one individual after another who in some way has demonstrated the value of the idea being discussed, and the overall result is an analysis that is useful, accessible, and entertaining.
Made to Stick contains a lot of minor concepts scattered throughout the book that support the main concepts involved in idea stickiness: how to spot or create it and how to transmit it effectively. Listed below are the book’s central ideas together with some of the lesser supporting ideas that give them shape.
The concept of “stickiness” is the book’s central idea. A “sticky” idea is one that is both memorable and capable of producing a change in thought and behavior. The book teaches us the basic components of sticky ideas and how to communicate them effectively by using the SUCCESs formula, which stands for:
Simple Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories
The authors remind us that charisma and speaking ability do not necessarily translate into idea “stickiness.” However, they assert that anyone trained in the SUCCESs method, regardless of educational background, personal charisma, linguistic ability, or speaking talent, can learn how to make their ideas stick.
The number one enemy of sticky ideas is the Curse of Knowledge, capitalized because of its central role as the primary block to communication. The Curse of Knowledge represents that background of information, experiences, and training that color our view of the world, including how we think, act, and communicate. Its main problem is its insidiousness: it is so ingrained that we are no longer aware of its existence or the fact that our audience may not be privy to the same set of ideas and experiences. A subset of the Curse of Knowledge are the schemas that we form—the mental patterns or frameworks that we access when referring to different categories of experiences or things.
This is the first and one of the most critical elements of the SUCCESs formula, since it informs the process throughout. As the first step in creating stickiness, it centers around finding the essential, or core, idea. In addition to reflecting the main intent, this idea should be accessible, compact, and sufficiently flexible that it can function as a guideline in multiple situations. In the army, this is called the Commander’s Intent, or CI, which, though it quickly focuses the whole chain of command on a single goal, also represents different specifics to different divisions.
The element of Unexpectedness involves getting and keeping the audience’s attention. The quickest way to get someone’s attention is to create a pattern interrupt. People expect certain behaviors or patterns under certain conditions, and when the pattern is interrupted, it creates surprise or even alarm in extreme situations. The result is a sudden awakening and increased attention.
Keeping attention involves a slightly different approach. The human mind is uncomfortable with open-endedness and feels a need to solve problems or find answers. Creating mystery by highlighting a gap in knowledge—like a detective story—is one way of maintaining interest. Another, which both creates and maintains curiosity and involvement, is to provide plenty of context: a historical fact or foreign news story might lack interest until viewed within the original context that makes its significance clear and gives it a more personal, colorful, or emotional touch.
One of the simplest, most immediate ways of creating “stickiness” is to give an idea concreteness. Fables and parables are excellent examples of this. Instead of presenting meaningless abstractions, they tell a story that gives the abstract idea a memorable context, thus making it accessible. By using plot and imagery, the fable makes the idea tangible and gives the audience something it can relate to.
Another way of demonstrating abstract ideas is with solid objects. The presence of the object concretizes the concept by enabling us to relate it to our everyday experience and thus imagine more vividly how the idea might function in that context. This is also called “finding common ground.” By linking the idea to the listener’s or reader’s experience, the presenter can make it more accessible and, therefore, comprehensible and usable. Examples include giving mathematical problems an everyday context such as adding apples and oranges.
Credibility comes in two varieties: external and internal. External credibility involves the opinions of experts or other types of authorities, such as celebrities. Authoritative statements may use statistics as one of their means of convincing the audience.
The other type of external authority is the antiauthority. An antiauthority is someone who may not be well known but who has personal experience, good or bad, in a given area. Although their experiences are often used as warnings, as in cases of substance abuse, they can also function as examples of those who have overcome challenging situations (before-and-after scenarios are an example of this).
Internal credibility refers to the inherent credibility of the thing or situation itself. It includes using plenty of detail, maintaining a human scale, creating personal verifiability (as in the option to compare hamburger sizes), and factoring in the Sinatra Test (“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” which translates into “if it worked in this situation, it will work anywhere”).
As a general rule, the plight of one individual has more power to move than the needs—no matter how urgent or widespread—of the masses. Part of it has to do with scale: it’s easier to imagine your $20 as having an impact on an individual life than on an entire needy country. But the actual act of reading a statistic instead of a story affects the way we think and feel by putting us in a calculating rather than an emotional frame of mind, and that simple difference can cut the giving in half.
To reach people’s emotions, we need to use words and associations, which brings up the issue of “semantic stretch.” “Semantic stretch” occurs when the meaning or connotations of a word have changed through either repeated misuse (as in the appropriation of a term that originally meant something else) or overuse (as in transferring a term from its specific original context and making it more mainstream). Rectifying this means either changing the term or changing the association.
Another way of reaching people is through tapping into their self-interest. However, “self-interest” does not necessarily mean “selfish interest;” and people are often more easily motivated by what they identify with rather than whatever immediately serves their personal needs.
A compelling story is more likely to inspire action and change than a statistic or abstraction. A story functions as a type of simulation, and simulations have been found to be excellent learning tools because they imitate real life. In doing this, they create associations with what we already know instead of remaining vague and irrelevant to our daily lives. It has even been found that mental visualization by itself, without any additional aids, can achieve twothirds of the equivalent in bodily effort.
Stories come in several varieties, each suited to a different purpose, such as instruction or inspiration. Among inspirational stories, Challenge stories inspire courage and action; Connection stories encourage better relationships by seeing past differences, and Creativity stories invite us to try new solutions and approaches. Springboard stories are like creativity stories except that, by presenting us with new views and possibilities, they give us an added impetus towards action and change.
Some people are highly creative and like to write their own stories. Though this can certainly be a terrific thing, it is not necessary since life hands us stories every day. What we need to cultivate is the ability to spot them when they appear. Referring to the SUCCESs formula is one way of doing this, as is knowing the different varieties of stories and their potential uses. Resisting the urge to file stories under “trivia” is another clue to effective spotting. By maintaining a habitual awareness of our most fundamental core idea, we can increase our ability to successfully find and utilize compelling stories.
Once your audience gets a hold of your idea, be extremely surprised if it doesn’t change right under your eyes. Idea metamorphosis may include keeping a portion and discarding the rest; cutting and pasting to produce something new, and eliminating the details to abstract the essence. The crucial bit to remember is that it’s the core idea and final result that matter most.
Be sure to know and understand your audience’s mindset. If you have a specific group in mind, try to discover its needs, desires, hopes, and concerns. Knowing these things will help you link your message to the lives of those you want to reach. If they can imagine a beneficial connection, they will be far more likely to buy into your message.
Made to Stick has anenormous cast of characters wandering through its pages. Below are just a few of the many people who have in one way or another demonstrated the usability of the ideas presented in the book.
In 1990, Elizabeth Newton devised the tapper/listener experiment for her Stanford Ph.D. in Psychology in order to demonstrate how background knowledge can color our thinking, thus preventing us from imagining the point of view of someone lacking the same information. In the experiment, tappers tapped the rhythm of a song while listeners tried to guess the song. Tappers typically estimated a 50 percent ratio for correct guesses when the actual ratio was 2.5 percent.
Colonel Tom Kolditz, professor and head of West Point’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, explains the concept of the Commander’s Intent, or CI, as a simplified prime directive that enables a complex plan to be transmitted from the highest ranks all the way to the battlefield with maximum flexibility yet without losing its focus.
Southwest Airline’s Chief Executive Officer for thirty years, Herb Kelleher ensured its success by introducing the slogan “THE low-cost airline” as its guiding principle. In a similar but more visual fashion, Jeff Hawkins, who led the team that originated the Palm Pilot, carried a small wooden block as a reminder to keep the design simple and avoid “feature creep”—the tendency to add a confusing array of unnecessary features.
Eliciting an audience’s attention involves getting it, keeping it, and sometimes even creating it. Southwest Airlines flight attendant Karen Wood is known for being one of the first to grab passengers’ attention by injecting unexpected but welcome humor into the otherwise dull flight safety instruction message. In reference to keeping attention, Arizona State University social psychology professor Robert Cialdini discovered through his own research that using mystery was one of the best ways to maintain students’ interest in a subject or problem. Finally, the late sports and news media president and producer Roone Arledge originated the concept of providing both visual and informational context as a way of generating and keeping audience interest in nonlocal sports. Arledge’s enthusiastically received ideas revolutionized television’s approach to sports broadcasting.
One of the most effective ways of lending concreteness to an idea is through fables, and one of the greatest generators of fables was the legendary Greek storyteller Aesop, who is presumed to have lived more than 2500 years ago and who wrote some of the stickiest stories of all time.
In a more concrete example of the “Concrete” category, computer entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan almost accidentally came up with the equivalent of Jeff Hawkins’s wooden block when he threw his maroon leather portfolio up into the air and watched it land in the center of the Kleiner Perkins conference table. Kaplan’s case acted as a visual focus for Silicon Valley’s leading technologists to imagine the next generation in personal computing.
On a larger scale of concreteness was San Francisco consultants Robert Stone and Keith Yamashita’s life-size simulation that provided Disney’s executives with a visual demonstration of Hewlett-Packard’s innovative technology. The 6000-square-foot simulation, which showed a family making the rounds at Disney World, was a hit with both Disney and HP personnel.
An example of an antiauthority, Pam Laffin had been smoking since she was ten. Before dying in 2000 at the age of thirty-one, Laffin agreed be an anti-smoking campaign spokesperson. Her broadcast spots showed television viewers the painful effects that smoking could have.
One of the most comprehensive examples of the “Credible” element of stickiness is the story of environmentalist Bill McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart, who accepted Swiss furniture manufacturer Rohner Textil’s challenge to create furniture fabric using nonhazardous chemicals. The story, which includes both statistics and plenty of vivid, interesting detail, relates how the results they achieved were so stunning that Swiss government water inspectors, when testing the factory’s outflow, thought at first that their instruments were broken.In addition, by achieving the “impossible,” McDonough and Braungart demonstrated the “Sinatra Test” aspect of credibility: credentials so impeccable that they’re difficult to refute.
The foremost Catholic saint and philanthropist Mother Teresa once said that the plight of one individual would move her to act while the suffering of the masses would not, and, in doing so, she spoke for most people. Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, was well known for her untiring aid to India’s poor and suffering.
Twentieth-century psychologist Abraham Maslow was best known for his list of eight essential categories of needs relating to our well-being at different levels, from the transcendent that seeks to help others to the most basic instincts. These eight categories included: physical needs, security, belonging, esteem, learning, aesthetics, self-actualization, and transcendence or philanthropy in its broadest sense. Maslow believed that we needed to fulfill the basic needs first, and that only then would we seek to satisfy the “higher” yearnings. However, later research has determined that the fulfillment of all categories is simultaneous rather than sequential.
Someone who understood this well was Floyd Lee, manager of the Pegasus Army mess hall outside of Baghdad, Iraq. Lee, a former cook for the Army and Marine Corps, came out of retirement to follow what he felt to be his calling to improve Army morale. Pegasus featured attractive lighting and décor, sports posters, and exceptional food, all using the same provisions and menus as other mess halls. By turning Pegasus into a place that provided the soldiers with as many of the “hierarchical” needs as possible, Lee and his staff turned created something truly special—to the extent that soldiers were even willing to risk danger to go there.
Psychologist Gary Klein’s book Sources of Power is a study of people who work in high-pressure environments, such as firefighters, intensive care unit workers, and air traffic controllers. Klein’s interest was in determining how these groups made their decisions, and he noticed that they regularly traded stories because they function as a way of transmitting wisdom, knowledge, and experience.
One of the best known stories in Made to Stick is that of Jared Fogle who, as a severely overweight college junior, lost 245 pounds by eating Subway vegetable and turkey sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Fogle became the spokesperson for what would become one of Subway’s most successful advertising campaigns.
The tale of how Jared’s story became so well known is remarkable in its own right and would not have happened without the persistent efforts of a series of people who spotted its potential. These included Bob Ocwieja, the subway franchise owner who first noticed the story; Richard Coad, creative director of Subway’s advertising agency in Chicago; and Barry Krause, the president of the agency, who decided to create the ad for free when he ran up against a lack of support from Subway’s national advertising department. Without them, the story never would have been more than a local legend. Because of them, it drew the immediate attention of the national media.
Rose Blumkin emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1917 as a young woman. Twenty years later, she founded Nebraska Furniture Mart, a family business which became so prosperous that she eventually sold it to another famous Nebraskan, Warren Buffett. Blumkin, who based her success on the motto “Sell cheap and tell the truth,” lived to 104 and could be found working seven days a week until her retirement at the same age.
When Stephen Denning was put in charge of the World Bank’s knowledge management, part of the challenge he faced was to change his employer’s lackadaisical attitude about information flow. About a month into his new job, Denning heard of a Zambian healthcare worker who, in an effort to solve a critical malaria problem, found the information he needed by using the internet—a novel idea in 1996. Denning used the story as a way of presenting the need for change within the organization, with the eventual result that the bank’s leadership not only embraced the idea but made it one of their main goals.
Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die begins by retelling a gripping urban legend about a kidney heist—complete with (literally) chilling details about a man who, after taking a drink from an attractive female stranger in a bar, wakes up in an ice-filled tub with a tube sticking out of his back and a note warning him to not move and call 911. The authors then contrast this story with a semi-comprehensible paragraph about non-profit financial planning strategy. After each passage, they suggest that we close the book, take anhourlong break, then call a friend and retell the story. Most people will have an easy time remembering the first anecdote but be hard pressed to recall much about the second, even without a break.
The two examples provide a colorful introduction to the authors’ main point that some ideas stick while others simply fail to make a sufficient impression to ensure their survival. The question this raises is whether a worthwhile idea presented in an engaging manner has the same potential to stick as a questionable but colorful idea such as the kidney heist legend. They have noticed that ideas that should be remembered—new business strategies, for example—often get lost in the translation, and they maintain that this has a lot to do with their presentation.
According to the Heath brothers, the six main characteristics that create idea “stickiness” are:
The authors add that using these ideas is as easy as the ideas themselves and that no particular expertise is needed. In fact, they claim that most of us would intuitively apply these principles if there were no interference from what they call the Curse of Knowledge, the culprit that guarantees more dull and dry communications than sticky stories.
The Tapping/Listening Experiment
This last concept was demonstrated by the tapper/listener experiment devised by Elizabeth Newton for her Stanford psychology Ph.D., in which the tappers would tap the rhythm of a song while the listeners would try to guess the song. Tappers estimated a 50 percent ratio for correct guesses when the actual ratio was 2.5 percent. In general, practical terms, that means that the background knowledge that colors our thinking prevents us from imagining a novice’s point of view.The authors’ aim is to help us transform the often incomprehensible jargon that infests much of our communication by providing us with the six principles above as a key to unlocking the potential stickiness of ideas.
“Stickiness” Can Be Taught
The book maintains that creating sticky ideas is a teachable skill. It cites the discovery by an Israeli research team in 1999 that almost 90 percent of the 200 most successful ads that they tested could be matched to one or more of six templates. By contrast, only 2 percent of the 200 relatively unsuccessful ads could be matched to a template. The research used three separate groups of people, with each group being trained to generate ads according to a different method. The group that was rated most positively by consumers was the group trained in the six-template method. To Dan and Chip Heath, this suggests that creativity is trainable and that the same concept can be applied to creating successful, or “sticky,” ideas.
No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy
What that statement means is that no plan survives the unexpected events that mark our daily lives: the inclement weather, the natural and man-made disasters, the unforeseen roadblocks, both literally and figuratively. The Heath brothers begin the chapter by describing the intricate planning that characterizes Army operations from the Presidency down through the highest ranks all the way to the lowest recruit. The problem, as voiced by Colonel Tom Kolditz, is that the plans don’t work. Though he affirms the usefulness of thinking through the different possibilities, once subjected to the battlefield and other unpredictable situations, the plans usually become obsolete. The Army’s solution was to create the Commander’s Intent (CI). Like plan instructions, the CI begins as a general order issued from the highest ranks and becoming increasingly specific as it descends through the chain of command and nears contact with the battlefield. The advantage of an “intent” over a fixed plan is that it allows for flexibility: if Plan A goes wrong, those actually executing the plan can improvise in accordance with the new situation while still maintaining the main goal.The other advantage is that the commanding officer can issue the same intent to various groups without having to explain every detail, since the groups—the mechanics, the artillery, and so on—know their own roles and requirements for different situations.
In everyday terms, the concept of the CI translates into keeping things simple. Creating rigid, intricate plans just doesn’t work when faced with the curve balls that life regularly throws our way. But what does “simple” mean in practical terms? Dan and Chip Heath offer the concept of getting to the heart of the matter or, as they express it, determining the “core” of a concept or goal. There are two aspects to this:
Both of these aspects rest on the notion that attempting to communicate more than one idea at a time is to eliminate the potential for “stickiness.” Once the core of the concept has been found, the SUCCESs formula can be applied to it to generate a genuinely “sticky” idea.
The Curse of Knowledge
One of the easiest things to forget is how the knowledge we’re trying to convey sounded to us back when we knew nothing about the subject matter.The communicating party who possesses specialized knowledge thinks that he or she has stated things clearly, but the other party may still feel confused or in the dark. Most of us know this feeling from the experience of a first day in a class dealing with a new, complex subject or after landing in a foreign country with a totally unfamiliar language and culture. The overall feeling is of being lost. On the other side of the fence are those times when we’re trying to explain something that seems obvious but that the other person can’t seem to grasp. The Heaths call this communication barrier the Curse of Knowledge, that veil between teacher and learner that prevents complete understanding. The rest of the book explores how to overcome that barrier and make an idea stick.
Southwest Airlines—One Simple Idea
For thirty years, Southwest Airlines has been a model of profitability. Its secret? The company’s leading intent is that it is “THE low-fare airline.” According to former CEO Herb Kelleher, once any employee understood this prime directive, he or she could make any company decision intelligently. Chicken Caesar salads for the customers? No way. Making jokes over the PA system?No problem—as long as it doesn’t interfere with the bottom line. The authors’ point is that a single clear directive, even when coupled with lesser directives—such as, in this case, combining fun with being THE low-cost airline—can tremendously facilitate the decision-making process and ensure that the main goal is met. They warn us, however, not to associate simplicity with stupidity (don’t “dumb down”) but to equate it instead with the Commander’s Intent—the single-minded target.
Finding the Lead—A Hint from Journalism
In journalism, the lead is the opening line from an article. Journalists are trained to make this line the most influential and comprehensive statement in the article. After that, every statement and paragraph decreases in importance until the reader reaches the final paragraphs, which have the least relevance. This is called the “inverted pyramid,” a practice that may have begun during the Civil War, when journalists sending their stories by telegraph never knew exactly when they would be cut off. The “inverted pyramid” also has both writing and editorial advantages. In the fast-paced world of journalism, writers needing to deliver a story in a hurry can focus on the main idea and pertinent details first; and editors needing to trim stories for space reasons can simply eliminate the final paragraphs. The trick is to avoid losing the story’s main thread, called “burying the lead,” and the opposite process—“finding the lead,” which is akin to finding the core of an idea—is the key to staying on target.
Sticking with Only One Idea—The Political Campaign
One of the temptations of complexity is that it can offer more than one central idea. The authors speak of the need for “forced prioritization,” citing the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign as an example. Amid all the inevitable confusion of a Presidential campaign, Clinton’s key advisor, James Carville decided to force a more focused approach. Out of three slogans he wrote on the board one stuck: “It’s the economy, stupid.” The word “stupid” was inserted as a reminder to campaign volunteers to keep to the basics instead of opting for excessive cleverness. Even Clinton’s own favorite “balanced budget” was vetoed in the name of absolute simplicity. The idea itself is simple: if you have more than one message, your message will be lost.
So how do you choose that all-important idea? Sometimes it’s not that hard, but when the amount of information is overwhelming, the details are too complex, or too many unknowns are involved, making the right choice can be difficult. In this section, the authors digress for a moment from the subject of finding the core idea to examine how people make decisions. According to mid-twentieth-century economist L. J. Savage’s “sure-thing principle,” if an individual could think through the likely outcomes of two possible events and determine that the effect on his decision would be identical, the decision itself would be a “sure thing.”
As logical as this sounds, it is not,in fact, true. The theory was tested by psychologists Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir, who discovered that uncertainty played a key role in determining a person’s reaction, even if the estimated impact of the two events was identical.The experiment centered around students being given the choice to buy a trip to Hawaii two days before receiving their grade for the final exam, with the option to pay five dollars extra to lock in a bargain price for two days. Of those who knew their grade, whether pass or fail, a little more than half chose to purchase the trip. Of those who didn’t know their grade, 61 percent chose to pay the fee. According to the “sure-thing principle,” those who didn’t know their pass-fail status should have opted to purchase the trip regardless, but that’s not what happened. Instead, their actions were influenced by their uncertainty.
Another experiment by Tversky and Dr. Donald Redelmeier determined that too many choices could have a similarly paralyzing effect. Of the students given a choice between studying and attending a highly entertaining one-time lecture, almost 80 percent decided to attend the lecture. However, when given an additional equally compelling choice to attend a foreign film, a full 40 percent resisted the other two choices and opted to study.
The sense of being overwhelmed by either uncertainty or too many choices is mitigated by a strong sense of priority—what the authors call a “core message” that can center a person’s sense of purpose and thus facilitate decision making.
To further aid with the goal of the book to teach people how to improve idea “stickiness,” the authors have developed what they term “idea clinics” which, though not essential to the reading, are designed to be useful as exercises. Idea clinics begin with a sample message which is then analyzed and reworked for improved stickiness. Following that is an analysis of how the reworked passage is an improvement over the original. The final section is a scorecard comparing the two messages according to the SUCCESs formula, followed by a “punch line” that summarizes the recommendations for improving the message. In the example given, which reduces and reorders a message about the perils of sun exposure, the final product received three check marks on the SUCCESs scorecard (as opposed to the original message’s zero scoring), and the punch line summarized the process by giving three suggestions: 1. to give the lead a prominent place in the text 2. to avoid irrelevant information, and 3. to focus on improving the interest of the lead point.
Sharing the Message
To introduce this idea, the Heaths tell us about The Daily Record, the local paper for Dunn, North Carolina, founded by Hoover Adams in 1950.The Daily Record boasts a readership level of 112 percent—remarkable by any standards. The cause? Adams’s uncompromising focus on local news, an idea he decisively reiterated to his staff in 1978 when he felt they were getting too far from the core concept of a local paper: to provide the daily local news, with lots of names and pictures, for the community. To do this, he was willing to override all other considerations, including significant world or regional events and even the paper’s profit margin. His emphasis on getting lots of local names was unmistakable. His mantra, “Names, names, and names,” like Southwest’s “THE low-cost airline,” enabled him and his team to quickly make hundreds of decisions relating to the paper’s daily operations.
The Effectiveness of Proverbs
“Names, names, and names” delivers its impact in two ways: it is relevant to the core message and it is compact—two crucial elements of “stickiness” that make the message easy to remember and apply as a general directive. The authors stress that compactness by itself is not enough. Aside from being easy to understand and remember, the information should be relevant, true, and beneficial. The best example of this is the proverb, which packs centuries-old wisdom into a short and simple phrase. In fact, some proverbs are so sticky that they manage to traverse not only the millennia but language, continent, and culture,as well. The example given is “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” which can be found in various forms in English, Spanish, Polish, Russian, German, Romanian, Italian, and a number of other languages, including Latin.
What makes the proverb so sticky? For one thing, it can act as a form of guidance, often moral in nature. The authors cite the well-known Golden Rule as an example of a compact statement that is so meaningful that a person could spend an entire lifetime plumbing its depths. They also mention “shared standards” as part of the definition of a proverb or other core idea. Adams’s “names, names, and names” worked within its own environment because everyone shared the same goal to produce a local paper.
Avoiding Feature Creep by Staying Centered
Core ideas, like proverbs, are especially useful when the shared standards have gone awry or threaten to do so, which is usually why they arise to begin with. Chip and Dan Heath use the example of the remote control and early versions of the PDA, both of which suffered from what they called “feature creep”—too many relatively useless features clogging the device and confusing the user. To counteract this trend, the leader of the Palm Pilot team, Jeff Hawkins, carried around a small wooden block which he would pull out every time someone suggested adding a feature. His idea, inspired by the clunkiness of one of the competing PDA devices, was that the Palm Pilot should do only four things and do them well. Ideas for additional features were challenged to find space on the wooden block, which functioned like a proverb in that it acted as a guiding concept.
Flags—As the authors point out, compactness may sometimes include a lot of information squeezed into a small package. To make this easy to process, it has to be memorable, and to be memorable, it needs to be organized into what the authors call “flags”—meaningful rather than random units of information. They give the example of a string of randomly grouped letters which they then reorder into recognizable abbreviations of famous names and organizations. The claim is that, for most people, the recognizable groupings are easier to remember because they are perceived, not as many individual letters but as only a few single concepts.
Schemas—Schemasare underlying concepts of varying simplicity or complexity. They can be as complex as a house or as simple as a single descriptive adjective, such as “soft.” The book gives the example of the pomelo schema, which depends for its definition on additional concepts or schemas already built up in our minds, such as grapefruit, citrus fruit, a thick and peelable rind, juiciness, and sweetness or tang. Even if we don’t know what a pomelo is, if our minds have grasped the other concepts, we can build a fairly clear idea of how it might look, feel, or taste. Furthermore, schemas are not limited to simpler concepts but can refer to larger ideas.
Simplicity: Springboard to Complexity
Using analogy, relatively simple schemas can provide clues to more complex ideas. The authors cite the solar system analogy as a means of explaining the atom, even though it’s not an entirely accurate comparison. This raises the question of priorities: accuracy or accessibility? The answer is that it depends on the audience, but the primary goal at all times is usefulness. An accurate and comprehensive idea that is too advanced for its audience (the Curse of Knowledge) is worthless in terms of immediate usefulness because it can’t be properly digested. Putting the idea in simple, accessible, concrete terms will enable the listener to use the idea immediately and effectively as a directive.
The Power of Analogy
Instead of having to use an entire paragraph to explain something, analogy can condense an entire complex scenario into one image. The authors compare it to the “high-concept pitch” of the movie world—a short, highly descriptive phrase designed to sell a new movie idea to Hollywood executives. A well-written high-concept pitch like Speed’s “Die Hard on a bus” or Alien’s “Jaws on a spaceship”can convey all sorts of expectations about the movie—the genre, the type of cast and director, the set design, even the approximate release date (for example, summer)—through nothing more than a few choice words. Certain metaphors, called generative analogies, can inspire new ideas or act as behavioral guides. The authors cite psychology’s comparison of the brain with a computer as an idea that has spawned a new approach to brain science. An instance of an analogy being used as a behavioral guide is Disney’s notion of treating its employees as actors, with the same terminology and expectations that apply to the acting profession extending to all jobs, including janitorial work.
Simplicity Plus Depth
Like proverbs, generative analogies are short, vivid, accessible, and,therefore, useful. Proverbs, however, are distinguished by one outstanding element that the authors consider most beneficial: depth. It is depth alone that can give a saying its lasting and universal power, and it is,therefore, an essential element in the definition of simplicity.
Waking Up Your Audience
Simple is great, but if it’s boring, chances are no one will care. So how do you get someone’s attention, even if you’re delivering the same dull message over and over again, and especially if your audience has heard it ten times before. The answer is: do something unexpected. In recent years, different airlines, not previously known for their comedy routines, have been trying this approach with their passengers. The Heaths describe how one flight attendant, Karen Wood, instead of regurgitating the usual dull flight safety instructions, inserted her own creative humor and, as a result, got not only the passengers’ attention but a round of applause at the end.
What did Wood do to get and keep her admittedly captive but bored audience’s attention? She introduced an unexpected element—in this case, humor—and inserted several phrases that weren’t in the script. In the authors’ words, she broke the usual pattern, which in turn caused surprise.
The Function of Surprise
Surprise functions as a type of human alarm system alerting us to new or unusual changes in our environment. It is even accompanied by a universal expression, what Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen, the authors of the book Unmasking the Face, call “the surprise brow.” It tells us that we need to alter our thinking or behavior by shocking us out of our usual routine, and the sense of discomfort it gives us motivates us to find solutions. The example of what seems to be a standard family minivan commercial, that ends in a fatal car crash, illustrates how a sudden unexpected jolt is one of the best ways of getting someone’s attention. The ad’s real purpose is to tell us to buckle up, and it uses the unexpected and violent impact of a car crash to wake us up and drive that point home.
The use of surprise, however, must relate to the core idea. If it doesn’t, it devolves into useless gimmickry that distracts from the message rather than highlighting it. The example given for this is of an ad featuring college band members who are suddenly attacked by wolves. The ad was memorable; unfortunately, its message was not because it bore no relationship to the action.
The use of surprise should also furnish insight. If its function is nothing more than to create confusion, then the related information will ultimately be discarded. The book cites a study by Lisa Williams and Bruce Whittlesea, who tested the reactions of people who were asked to read several words in order to determine whether they belonged to the English language. Some, like “hension” and “bardle,” looked as though they should have but didn’t, while others, like “phraugh” and “tayble,” looked odd but were recognized as actual words once pronounced. According to Whittlesea and Williams, “phraugh” and “tayble” drew recognition in the form of the “surprise brow,” while “hension” and “bardle” elicited a confused frown.
To summarize this section, the authors recommend the following four steps for effectively communicating your message through the use of surprise:
According to the authors, the surprise is brought about by the inadequacy of our schemas, which are refined by factoring in the new insight. In the case of the minivan commercial, the core message was to buckle up; the counterintuitive message was that driving down quiet treelined suburban streets is not as safe as it seems; the surprise was the violent and fatal crash, and the schema refinement was, again, to buckle up to ensure safety.
On a lighter note, Nordstrom, which prides itself on delivering outstanding customer service, uses stories with surprise elements to convey its agenda of outstanding service to its new employees. Outstanding service can mean many things to many people, so Nordstrom’s has learned that a concrete, descriptive message is the best way to get through. New hires hear of employees (called “Nordies”) who have gift-wrapped Macy’s purchases, refunded tire chains that Nordstrom’s didn’t even sell, and ironed the customer’s shirt, to name just a few items. The surprise generated by these stories quickly informs the new hire that “outstanding customer service” is taken to a whole new level at Nordstrom’s.
Extracting the Core
When acclaimed screenwriter and one-time journalist Nora Ephron took her first journalism class, she remembers having her early notion of journalism—gathering and repeating the facts—turned on its head on her first day of class. The teacher, knowing that the students’ model of journalistic writing was deficient, instructed the class to write a lead based on a few essential facts about a story of the whole faculty of a certain school going to hear three famous speakers the following Thursday. The students dutifully reconstructed the facts but missed the most significant underlying message—that there would be no school that day. Once the teacher made that clear, the students quickly realized that their entire definition of journalism had been incomplete and adjusted their thinking accordingly.
Example: Idea Clinic
The two competing messages for this idea clinic attempt to dispel Americans’ notion that the government spends a lot of money on foreign aid. The comparisons of government spending for sub-Saharan Africa in Message 1, which used concepts such as billions of dollars and B-2 bombers were too remote from most people’s everyday reality to hit home. The authors,therefore, eliminated these items and substituted them with the more accessible ideas of soft drinks and movies: an occasional sacrifice of these relatively frivolous items on the part of every American would easily double the amount of critical aid available to these countries. The authors also switched what they felt was the lead idea from its position at the end of Message 1 to the beginning of Message 2.
The final Scorecard rating gave Message 1 three checkmarks versus Message 2’s six, which omitted the Story category but gave two checkmarks to the Unexpected category. The punch line summarized the comparison by recommending a direct approach to breaking people’s schematic patterns (the word “direct” here appears to mean “personally accessible” and “immediate,” as in immediate presentation of the lead coupled with accessible rather than remote analogies).
Conveying basic ideas can often be done quickly, but more complex concepts may require maintaining the audience’s interest for a longer period of time. So what’s the best way to do this?
Social psychologist Robert Cialdini set out to answer this question by first studying other science writers and then incorporating the more successful approaches in his own writing and teaching. Aside from expected qualities such as clarity, vividness, and flow, he also found one unexpected item: the use of mystery. Unlike surprise which has a quick answer, mystery leads us down a pathway of questioning that beckons us to find a solution. In fact, in one of Cialdini’s classes, when he failed to provide the solution before the end of class, he was barraged by protesting students who, though usually quick to exit, remained in their places to hear the answer.
Robert McKee, famous for his highly successful writing seminars, has examined the same problem from the screenwriting point of view.He contends that each scene should contain a turning point that holds the audience’s attention by arousing its curiosity, keeping it guessing as to the next scene and its outcome.Behavioral economist George Loewenstein puts it another way: the curiosity so necessary to maintain interest arises from a perceived in gap in knowledge.
Creating the Need to Know
The thing to remember about this gap is that people may not be aware of it until it’s pointed out to them. News shows are adept at utilizing teasers that ask one or more questions designed to potentially interest the audience in the next broadcast. They typically use sensationalism to convince people that the new information may impact them in some critical or at least attractive way.
But what about people who think they already know it all? How do we penetrate the wall of excessive confidence? Asking people to commit to the answer and then showing them the deficiency in their thinking—as in the example with Nora Ephron’s first journalism class—is one way to make them aware of their knowledge gaps.Another is to place them in an environment that is more likely to generate controversy. This was demonstrated by a study done by Nancy Lowry and David Johnson, who observed two groups of fifth and sixth graders. Both were exposed to the same topic, but in one case, the discussion fostered a consensus while, in the second, it encouraged controversy. A film on the topic was then shown during recess. Of the students in the consensus group, only 18 percent attended the film, as opposed to 45 percent from the controversy group. The conclusion drawn from this is that our discomfort with knowledge gaps leads us to seek to fill them as rapidly as possible, to the point that it can even override other interests.
Just as added knowledge can help to fill uncomfortable gaps, knowledge in the form of previously missing context can actually generate interest where before there was none.When ABC first started broadcasting the NCAA football games in the 1960s, interest in college football didn’t extend beyond the home town.ABC needed to think of a way to generate interest, and this was done by Roone Arledge, a young staff member who one day wrote a three-page memo outlining the plan that would revolutionize sports broadcasting. At the time, sports coverage focused entirely on the game to the exclusion of anything else. The shots of the crowd, surroundings, and fanfare along with the interviews and contextual stories now so familiar to us simply didn’t exist. Arledge’s ideas were enthusiastically received, and he was later asked to produce the Wide World of Sports series using the same ideas, an equally new experience for American audiences, who had focused on local sports until then. His legacy included numerous other well-known news and sports shows,as well as a host of Emmys, but his greatest gift was a whole new approach to broadcasting that generated interest rather than seeking it out.
The authors warn against dumping too much information on the audience all at once. They use the analogy of a treasure map with a few clues and a big red X as being anexcellent way to pique and maintain interest. They stress that sequential clues, which they liken to flirting, are more effective than providing all or most of the information up front. And finally, they note how a gigantic red X—an intriguing goal that highlights a vast gap in knowledge—can inspire and galvanize large numbers of individuals to find new solutions that alter the path of progress.
Maintaining Long-Term Interest
Two of the most memorable goals of this caliber were the transistor radio and the landing of the first man on the moon. Like Arledge’s new approach to sports broadcasting, they both altered an entire field and changed the way we saw the world and the future. Both ideas also faced considerable challenges. Masaru Ibuka’s idea came at a time when Sony, still a new company in the mid-1950s, was struggling to survive, and Ibuka ran into licensing problems because of governmental skepticism. Radios were not, after all, supposed to fit in your pocket. Similarly, President John F. Kennedy’s dream was conceived amid competition from the Soviets, who were fast winning the space race. But though both ideas put a new face on the future, neither was so incredible that it failed to incite inspiration and creativity. The giant red X may have highlighted many gaps in knowledge, but it also generated enough interest and excitement to inspire thoughts and actions of an entirely new sort.
The Power of Parables
Chapter 3 begins by retelling Aesop’s fable of “The Fox and the Grapes,” in which a fox, after leaping up numerous times to try to reach the grapes, finally gives up. Exhausted, he walks away, mumbling that the grapes are probably sour anyway. The story ends with the moral that it’s easy to berate the things we can’t have.
The authors note how Aesop’s fables are among the stickiest stories in history, still disseminating their wisdom several millennia after they were written. They believe that, in addition to the above fable’s inherent value, the encoding of the story’s idea in concrete form—and they stress the word “encoding”—has helped to give it its extraordinary stickiness.
The value of concreteness is its accessibility: by mirroring real life, it makes the concept comprehensible in a way that pure abstraction cannot. This becomes especially clear when dealing with some of the incomprehensible epithets, or “buzzwords,” that regularly creep into business, science, and virtually every other field. The authors cite such examples as “idiopathic cardiomyopathy”, “strategic logistical values,” and “meta-cognitive skills”—all of them relatively meaningless until translated into everyday terms; and meaningless ideas are neither memorable nor useful.
The Nature Conservancy: From Billions of Acres to a Few Landscapes
The term “concrete” implies above all that the idea is vivid and comprehensible. When the Nature Conservancy saw that its “bucks and acres” strategy—a program that protected environmentally endangered land by buying it—was insufficiently funded to cover the large number of acres requiring protection in California TNC realized that it needed a new approach. Instead of buying the land, it would work with the government and landowners, either through new regulations or payments known as “conservation easements,” to ensure that the land would not be developed. As useful as these strategies were, there was the problem of convincing both the donors and TNC’s employees that something concrete was still being done. A piece of land was something palpable; a government regulation was not. Moreover, the vast numbers of acreage being dealt with were simply too difficult to visualize. The solution? TNC came up with the concept of specific landscapes.California, one of five Mediterranean regions in the world, could now be conceived as fifty environmentally endangered landscapes, each with significant specific features, instead of millions of acres of nameless land needing protection. The uninteresting but environmentally significant wilderness area east of Silicon Valley known as the brown hills now became the Mount Hamilton Wilderness instead. By organizing and naming California’s wilderness areas, TNC made its efforts more concrete and, therefore, comprehensible to its donors and staff.
Advantages of Concrete Examples
Accessible—Communication, whether we’re learning something new or communicating an idea to others, requires at least a certain amount of abstraction. Butto truly enable someone, especially a novice, to grasp an abstract idea, the best way to approach it is through concrete examples. In countries such as Japan and Taiwan, known for producing mathematically superior students, the percentage of concrete mathematical teaching examples using easy-to-visualize tools and concepts exceeds US usage of such tools by 18 to 35 percents. In a 1993 study done of Japanese, Taiwanese, and American teaching methods for mathematics, tools such as blocks, drawings, and examples from everyday life were far more likely to be drawn on by the Asian than by the American teachers, who used such devices only 2 percent of the time. The conclusion was that the superior mathematical ability of Asian students appeared to have its basis in a more concrete understanding of how mathematical concepts work.
In another study by Beth Bechky, a group of engineers hired to design the machinery that would produce silicon chips, when faced with a manufacturing problem, would habitually resort to their drawings, which, in turn, became increasingly complex. The result was a widening communication gap between the engineers and the manufacturing team. The reason? The Curse of Knowledge, or the tendency of experts to think in abstract terms. The solution was not to talk down to the manufacturers but to find the common denominator in the experience of both sides—in this case, the unmistakably concrete machinery.
One vivid example of a concrete, accessible idea was illustrated by consulting firm Stone Yamashita’s presentation of Hewlett-Packard’s partnership proposal to Disney. Sounds dull doesn’t it? Not the way Robert Stone and Keith Yamashita went about it. Both former innovative types employed by Apple, Stone and Yamashita created a simulation of how HP’s technology could enhance the experience of a family visiting Disney World—from dinner reservations to family photos. The installation, which turned the abstractness of HP’s complex technology into a concrete, accessible experience, was a hit with the Disney executives. Even the HP employees, the experts in the field, were so impressed by the technological achievement that the installation ran several months longer than originally intended.
A concrete example of something can provide a focus and impetus for a creative exchange of ideas in a way that pure abstraction simply cannot. When entrepreneur and technology researcher Jerry Kaplan first presented his idea for a more portable computer to Kleiner Perkins, Silicon Valley’s most admired venture capitalists, it was Kaplan’s leather portfolio that provided just such a focus. Although there was nothing high tech about the portfolio itself, it represented a palpable visual symbol of a new age in computing and, therefore, gave Kaplan’s audience something clear and definite to work with. They didn’t have to strain themselves to imagine what Kaplan was envisioning; they could simply pick up the leather case and see for themselves what he had in mind. Instead of deluging them with graphs, charts, and other abstract symbols, he presented the idea in simple, concrete terms that gave their technological brilliance a focal point to produce its own ideas about how to bring it off.
The Idea Clinic that followed this story had the same motif: how a simple, concrete, palpable item could by virtue of its immediate accessibility outdo a more sophisticated presentation. Like Kaplan’s leather portfolio, which outdid the overly prepared presentation that preceded it, longtime Unicef Director James Grant knew how to involve top statesmen in solving the issue of rampant death by dehydration of children afflicted with diarrhea. Grant knew that mixing the right amounts of salt and sugar with liquid (called Oral Rehydration Therapy, or ORT) could save a child’s life with little effort and for next-to-no cost, so he presented his audience with a small bag of the mixture and explained the situation. That was it. The bag was small enough to fit into Grant’s pocket, but it got their attention.
Memorable—Just as it’s easier to grasp abstract concepts with the aid of concrete examples, it is also easier to remember them when given a concrete context. Professors Carol Springer and Faye Borthick of Georgia State University demonstrated this when they introduced a specific case study of a new business into their introductory accounting class. Two longer-term results from this single action stood out: 1. the best students in the class were more likely to become accountants, and 2. average students taking the follow-up course roughly two years later scored significantly higher on their first exam, which was largely based on the concepts learned in the introductory class.
But memory, even of concrete items, does not appear to be a uniform experience. Recalling a painting seems to access a different memory file than recalling a piece of music, the name of a city, or the definition of an abstract philosophical concept such as truth. The authors liken memory to a strip of Velcro, with multiple loops on one side and an equal number of hooks on the other. When the loops and hooks come into contact with each other, they latch onto each other and stick. When many different loops and hooks are made to touch, the result is a highly memorable, or sticky, event or idea. To make this more vivid, the authors cite the example of an elementary teacher named Jane Elliot.
When Martin Luther King, Jr.was assassinated in 1968, Jane Elliott was faced with having to explain to her third-grade class why such an event might happen. These third graders knew King as a hero, and the downright white neighborhood of Riceville, Indiana, gave them no context with which to understand prejudice, so Elliott determined that she would provide it for them. When they came to class the next day, Elliott announced that the class would now be divided into two and that the brown-eyed children would be superior to the blue-eyed children. Blue-eyed children now had to wear collars and sit in the back of the class. What shocked Elliott, was how quickly the students adjusted to the new situation, though in an entirely negative way. The “superior” group taunted the “inferior” group, which in turn suffered in mood, behavior, and performance. The next day, when Elliott announced the reverse situation, again there was a shockingly rapid adjustment, with marked changes in attitude, mood, behavior, and performance. Fortunately, the lasting effect of the lesson was that the students who experienced it were far less prone to prejudice because of their own vivid memories. Elliott had managed to connect several different hooks and loops, with the result that the lesson stuck for many years afterwards.
Specific—The two large, long-term goals mentioned at the end of Chapter 2 both had specific slogans that encapsulated their respective missions in unmistakable terms.Ibuka’s transistor radio was the “pocketable radio,” while Kennedy’s space mission was to “put a man on the moon” within a decade or less. As vast and futuristic as these concepts were, they were both precise enough that large numbers of people could set about accomplishing the necessary tasks without wasting time questioning the exact nature of the goal. Similarly, Boeing’s specifications for the new 727 design in the 1960s left little to the imagination. Those hired to design and build it knew the exact number of passengers, the route (Miami to New York), the exact runway it would land on at La Guardia, and the type of flight (non-stop). The moral of the story? Concrete, specific goals are far more likely to generate successful results than abstract, vague mission statements.
Using Concrete Specifics to Create Sticky Ideas: Asking Your Audience for Help
When Melissa Studzinski joined General Mills as the Hamburger Helper Brand Manager, her mission was to fix HH’s longtime slumping sales. Studzinski and her team sifted through piles of brand data, then finally decided to put it all aside in favor of a simpler and more immediate approach. Based on consumer profiles, she and her team visited about thirty homes and witnessed with firsthand vividness what their customers—mostly mothers and kids—were looking for from Hamburger Helper. The mothers who had to cook and take care of kids at the same time; the kids who preferred certain flavors over lots of shapes; the customers who needed an easier time finding their favorite kinds among dozens of options—information and experiences like these spelled a preference for convenience and predictability in a way that masses of data simply couldn’t. Based on their findings, General Mills simplified and adjusted the brand with the result that sales rose 11 percent.
Saddleback Church in California took a similarly specific approach. Their target parishioner was a type they called “Saddleback Sam” and his family, which included his wife and two children, whom they named Saddleback Samantha, Steve, and Sally. They knew not only this family’s demographics but their exact cultural, social, and religious preferences, and they tailored their campaign accordingly. They had deduced that Sam was a successful, educated professional with no particular interest in joining a church, even if he had religious beliefs.They then communicated the specific type to every church volunteer and paid worker in every division of the organization. The result? They attracted 50,000 families that matched the demographic.
The authors contend that, of all aspects of stickiness, concreteness is the easiest to access—it’s just that we forget to use it. We fall without thinking into the habit of abstraction, forgetting that many people don’t know what we know and can’t necessarily fill in the blanks. Keeping things concrete eliminates the blind spot because it allows others to see and experience things as we do.
Chapter 4 is about the fourth ingredient of stickiness: credibility. Simply put, if no one believes your story, it won’t stick—or it will take a longer time to get through, regardless of whether it’s true or not. We can all think of lots of instances of the stubborn mindset that refuses to even examine a discovery simply because it doesn’t fit preconceived notions. The history of ideas is full of them: the earth being round instead of flat or revolving around the sun instead of the other way around are just two of the better known examples.
The Heaths first example showing the difficulty that new concepts sometimes have when attempting to penetrate stubborn beliefs is of Australians Robin Warren, a pathologist, and Barry Marshall, at the time a medical intern, who won the Nobel prize in medicine for their discovery that ulcers, which affect ten percent of the global population, are actually caused by bacteria. What is shocking is that it took over twenty years for their work to be acknowledged. Even worse, Marshall, who became frustrated with the thickheadedness of his colleagues, dragged them into the lab one day to demonstrate his hypothesis—on himself. Before anyone could stop him, he swallowed a dishful of Helicobacter pylori and was soon manifesting the symptoms of gastritis—nausea, vomiting, and an inflamed stomach lining. To prove his point, he subsequently treated himself with antibiotics and was cured. Critics still claimed that the demonstration wasn’t convincing because Marshall’s gastritis had not developed into a full-fledged ulcer, but the incident proved enough to gain people’s attention and lend added support to the theory. That was in 1984. The discovery, which could have saved millions unnecessary pain and suffering, was finally recognized ten years later by the National Institutes of Health, and in 2005, it won the Nobel Prize.
Why this backwardness in people’s thinking? The authors cite a few reasons, including prejudice as to place, profession, age, and image. Warren and Marshall were from Perth, Australia; Marshall was only thirty years old and still training in internal medicine, and evidently he didn’t have the right “image.” Then there was so-called common sense: the concept didn’t fit with current notions about the effects of stomach acid on bacteria, which were thought incapable of surviving under the same conditions that dissolved foods such as meat.
So what’s the solution? How do we overcome the credibility gap? In examining what makes an idea credible, the Heath brothers first look at our reasons for believing (or disbelieving) something. They include influences such as family and environment, religion, personal experience, and trust in what we consider an authoritative source. For a new and controversial idea to get through all that resistance can be difficult. But the authors make a valid point: some highly sticky ideas are hardly credible when examined more closely. Why then did they stick to begin with?
Authority—One way an idea, whether true or not, can attempt to convince is by citing authority. A bogus 1999 email about bananas infected with a flesh-eating virus used impressive names like the FDA and the Manheim Research Institute to gain credibility. Other types of authority include experts, such as famous scientists or economists, and celebrities such as singers, actors, and talk show hosts, who are often called upon to endorse a product or idea because of their personal influence on popular opinion.
Antiauthority—The other option is the antiauthority, whose expertise is drawn from personal experience—sometimes painful, sometimes positive, and sometimes merely ordinary. One of the more painful examples of an antiauthority was Pam Laffin, a young woman with serious health problems who had been smoking since the age of ten. Before she died at the age of thirty-one, Laffin agreed to be a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s anti-smoking campaign. Her broadcast spots showed television viewers the painful effects that smoking could have. A more positive example was taken from New York City’s John Doe Fund, which rescues homeless men and gives them another chance at life. Their mentoring program uses one-time “John Does”—men who have actually experienced homelessness—to help the new rescues improve their lives.But an antiauthority can also be a friend or acquaintance recommending a product or event. Their personal experience is more authoritative to us because we know and trust them, something that can’t always be said for commercially driven messages.
One of the most effective means of making a story believable is to give it internal credibility—that is, to ensure believability regardless of who is telling the story. There are a few different ways to do this.
Localized detail—One sensational urban legend that is retold in many different locations is the “Boyfriend’s Death” legend, which tells of a couple stranded in their vehicle, in the woods.The boyfriend goes for help and, after several hours of waiting for him to return, the girlfriend—who has been hearing a strange scratching noise on the roof of the car—goes looking for him.As she exits the car, she sees him hanging from a tree over the car. Wherever the legend is told, local details are added for vividness and credibility. The same idea applies to historical legends, such as Civil War tales.
Vivid detail—One il1ustration of the effect of vivid detail on decision making was University of Michigan researchers Jonathan Shedler and Melvin Manis’s 1986 simulated trial experiment assessing the fitness of a mother to care for her child. The trialwas constructed to have an equal number of arguments on both sides. The same arguments were then presented to two groups of jurors with the only difference that the level of detail varied for each side. In both cases, the type of detail introduced was deliberately made to be unimportant, especially as compared with the basic action relating to the detail. For example, the fact that the child used a Darth Vader toothbrush was less significant than that his mother made sure that he brushed his teeth. Interestingly, jury results changed—though fortunately not dramatically—according to the amount and vividness of detail on either side, not because the details were relevant but because they gave a greater sense of reality to either the pro or con accounts.
Meaningful details—One of the most effective use of details is as a supporting fact for a core value or idea. When Artistic Director Peter di Muro of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange attended a Stanford-sponsored workshop focusing on arts organizations, he named diversity as one of his company’s core values. In response to skepticism about this claim by one professor, Di Muro cited 73-year-old company member Thomas Dwyer as evidence of the genuineness of his statement. Dwyer, who joined the LLDE after retiring from his government job, had been with the company for almost twenty years. That single detail silenced not just the skeptics but the entire roomful of professors.
Statistics and Scale
Make it concrete and vivid—Statistics are useful when dealing with large-scale issues. Unfortunately, just as global issues can seem remote, statistics often don’t mean much to many of us. So how do we take a number—especially a large number—and give it meaning? In the 1980s, the group Beyond War came up with an ingenious way to do just that. The group had noticed that the escalating arms race between the US and the Soviet Union was garnering little in the way of an active response from the public. Together, the two countries had accumulated 5000 nuclear warheads—a staggering amount of destructive power. Yet not much was being done to stop the trend, so Beyond War decided to give the statistic a shape and sound. At prearranged home visits, they used BBs and a metal bucket to demonstrate the relative number of nuclear warheads in the world. The first BB they dropped into the bucket represented one warhead—the one that devastated Hiroshima, the aftermath of which they would then describe in detail. Next they would deposit ten BBs into the bucket until finally ending the demonstration by dumping in all 5000 BBs after asking the group members to close their eyes. The shocking experience of the interminable clatter of all those BBs was enough to wake people to the significance of the statistical symbol “5000” as it related to the number of nuclear warheads in the world and the destructive power they held.
Give it a comprehensible context—Human thinking has a difficult time grasping large, not to mention huge, scales. They simply don’t match our day-to-day reality, so when dealing with large numbers or concepts, it’s useful to relate them to smallerscale ideas that are more readily comprehensible in terms of human experience. In one example taken from Steven Covey’s book The 8th Habit, statistics about corporate unity and efficiency, which seemed vague at best, were compared to the workings of a soccer team. Because the soccer team was smaller and their goal more obvious, the same set of statistics suddenly took on a much clearer significance. Things that might not have seemed significant in relation to corporate efficiency—such as only 15 percent of employees being certain as to the company’s main goal—were clearly seen as being unworkable in the more readily comprehensible context of a soccer game.
Beware of the twist—Just as honest and complete statistics can be used to support a worthwhile argument, statistics that omit information or skew facts can also be used as deceptive evidence. The authors, therefore, counsel us to use them primarily as an aid in decision making, not as a support for an opinion we already hold. In the end, though, the statistics themselves are less memorable than the vivid comparisons that give us a concrete and manageable concept that we can relate to our own lives.
The Sinatra Test
The “Sinatra Test” is the third element, along with detail and statistics, that can be used to enhance credibility. So just what is the Sinatra Test? The term refers to the line from Frank Sinatra’s song “New York, New York:” “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” Simply put, it means that an impeccable credential can act as a powerful guarantee. The authors give several examples, including the hypothetical security firm whose only client is Fort Knox. Even with no other credentials, its impeccable record so far has the power to multiply its credibility.
But what if youcan’t yet count Fort Knox or Buckingham Palace among your customers? Rubal Jain of the Indian shipping company Safexpress met just such a challenge. Indian shipping companies were known for their cheap rates but not necessarily either on-time or safe delivery. Safexpress decided to be different, and their promises of safe, timely delivery, even at higher prices, were welcomed by multinational companies. Not so, however, with the Indian companies, which were used to inexpensive rates. But Safexpress had some highly credible cards to play, so it contacted a principal Bollywood studio with the aim of closing a deal. The studio was not convinced and feared piracy as well, so Jain pulled out his ace: Safexpress had delivered the most recent Harry Potter book to all bookstores in India—safely and on time. In addition to this major feat, Safexpress had handled the safe delivery of the high school board exams—an eminent Indian exam requiring high security—as well as high school and university admissions exams. One of the those board exams belonged to the Bollywood executive’s brother, something Jain had picked up on earlier. Jain was able to close the deal with the studio.
One of the most remarkable stories in Made to Stick uses all three elements that enhance internal credibility. When environmentalist Bill McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart took on the challenge presented to them in 1993 by the Swiss furniture manufacturer Rohner Textil, the results they achieved were remarkable. Rohner Textil’s goal was to create fabric for their furniture without using hazardous chemicals—fabric so safe that babies could chew on it. This was generally considered impossible, but that didn’t stop McDonough and Braungart, who set out to find a chemical company that would disclose its manufacturing processes to them so that they could find and choose the necessary non-toxic chemicals. All except one company, Ciba-Geigy, refused them; and,of the roughly 8000 chemicals they investigated only thirty-eight proved to be safe. That was, however, enough to create a variety of colors. Not only that but costs went down 20 percent; employees didn’t have to wear protective clothing; Rohner Textil no longer had to ship the toxic fabric trimmings to be burned or buried in Spain because its environmental safety laws were less stringent, and when the Swiss government’s water inspectors came to check the factory’s outflow, the water was so pure that at first they thought their instruments were broken.
The story uses plenty of vivid and meaningful details that support the core idea; these, in turn, are underscored with captivating, comprehensible statistics; and, as the authors point out, if McDonough were to approach any business with this success under his belt, it would certainly pass the Sinatra Test: there would be no doubt that business and environmentalism are a close match.
Seeing Is Believing—Testable credentials, or verifiable evidence, are yet another way of convincing an audience of the validity of a message, essentially because the audience convinces itself. The classic example of this is the 1980s’ “Where’s the Beef?” commercial, which challenged customers to see for themselves how much bigger Wendy’s beef patties were compared to the competition’s burgers. The ad, which became a classic, showed three little old ladies looking at a gigantic burger bun. As they lift the bun to examine the negligible contents, one of them squawks: “Where’s the beef?” Aside from the novel and humorous approach, customers could use their own experience to test the validity of the claim. Did it work? A year later, Wendy’s sales had increased by almost 30 percent.
Beware of Deceptive Interpretations—Testable credentials aren’t foolproof since they, like anything else, can be manipulated to deceive. The Snapple label was an example of this. Those trying to accuse Snapple of being connected to the Ku Klux Klan pointed out the slave ship and the “K” on Snapple’s bottles as proof. On the surface, the evidence was verifiable; the problem is that it had been misinterpreted. The “K” stood for “kosher,” and the “slave ship”—which has since been dropped—was the Boston Tea Party ship. Used correctly, though, a verifiable credential can help to convince people by getting them directly involved.
The Power of Immediacy—One of the more powerful examples of this method was the one about NBA rookie orientation. To help the young men navigate their new lives and celebrity status intelligently, the NBA takes them to a hotel for about a week, where they are given advice on how to make wise decisions about everything from managing their money to avoiding AIDS. When approached at one point during their stay by a group of attractive women in the bar, some of the players typically arrange to connect with them later. The next morning, they are confronted by the same group of women who introduce themselves and then reveal that they are HIV positive. More than any number of warnings about contracting HIV, this technique drives the point home because of its immediacy.
The authors conclude the chapter by noting that there are many ways to capture an audience’s attention and that what may be effective in one instance might not work in another. In some cases, as in Barry Marshall’s, all methods might be necessary to convey the point, or, as in the example of Rohner Textil, they might simply make the idea that much more memorable.
Chapter 5 picks up where Chapter 4 left off. For people to act on an issue, they need to not only believe that it’s true: they also need to care about it and relate to it. The first of these, caring, is most likely to be inspired by feeling. Self-interest can also play a part in motivating people, but it’sonly a part of the picture. The more powerful motivator is identity, and identity can have many levels and is not necessarily centered on basic or egocentric needs.
The Power of Emotion
The chapter begins by quoting Mother Teresa as having once said that the plight of one individual would move her to act while the suffering of the masses would not. Researchers conducting a study at Carnegie Mellon University in 2004 discovered that most people are like Mother Teresa—more likely to respond to a single person than to an entire suffering continent. At first, they thought the issue was one of scale, but further research revealed that responses were more related to a calculating versus an emotional state of mind. When exposed to either statistical facts or an individual story, participants were more likely to respond to the heart-wrenching story than to the bare facts, regardless of the urgency or scale. When given both types of information, the difference in giving was determined by their prior state of mind: participants who were given a mathematical problem before reading the information gave half as much as those who were asked to give a single-word response to the word “baby”—about the same response as that resulting from the statistics-versus-story approach.
The same effect was observable in the different results produced by the Truth campaign against teenage smoking versus Philip Morris’s “Think, Don’t Smoke” campaign. The Truth ads, which showed teenagers dumping hundreds of body bags next to a tobacco factory, succeeded as a smoking deterrent because they hooked into teenagers’ emotions and state of mind, especially their sense of rebellion. The “Think, Don’t Smoke” campaign, which appealed to a more calculating state of mind, didn’t work.
One way to make people care is to use the power of word association to link new concepts with familiar experiences. But what happens when a word becomes misused or overused? Either its meaning can become warped, or it can lose its original emotional impact as its associations change.Favorite generational terms like “cool” and “dude” are examples of the latter: formerly associated with a particular group (hippies), they have now entered the mainstream and consequently lost their original social connotations. An example of the former—a change in meaning—is the word “sportsmanship.” Once used to indicate chivalrous behavior in athletic competition, it now refers to anyone who refrains from destructive behavior during a game or on losing. Among athletes, receiving a sportsmanship award has become something to be ashamed of—a sign of being a “loser.” This is called “semantic stretch,” and counteracting its effects requires finding new and creative ways to communicate the same idea.
To continue with the example of the word “sportsmanship,” Jim Thompson, who founded the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1988, ran up against just that problem when trying to fight poor behavior in youth athletics. Over the years, behavior at sports competitions had become progressively worse, not just among players but among spectators and parents,as well. Trying to convey the idea of sportsmanship in an increasingly difficult environment that defined it as losing proved challenging. Yet Thompson knew that the underlying desire and respect for generous, well-mannered, and honorable behavior was still there in spite of appearances to the contrary. Living examples existed as potential inspiration, such as former Tour de France champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, who slowed down and waited for his competitor Jan Ullrich to get up after crashing. But the general expectations surrounding sportsmanship had changed so much that Thompson and his team at the PCA knew that they would have to reintroduce the idea in a new way, so in an attempt to raise the level of awareness and expectation, they came up with the term “Honoring the Game.”
The concept of “Honoring the Game” took the focus off interpersonal or team competition and placed it back on the game as something higher and more valuable than individual or team prowess, yet something all sports fans and participants truly cared about. The effects of the concept, coupled with training in Positive Coaching, have created a massive reduction in bad sports behavior—for example, technical fouls—in both basketball and baseball, along with an increase in morale and new recruits.
Thompson’s story shows how addressing the things that matter to people can change their behavior, and though “Honoring the Game” tapped into a higher instinct in people, for some, reaching people means appealing to their self-interest. John Caples, a talented early twentieth-century copywriter, was a master at this. He was well-known for his eye-catching ads which specialized in capitalizing on people’s self-interest. One of Caples’s techniques was to emphasize benefits instead of features, since it’s not the features themselves but what they can do that actually interests customers. Another was to address his audience directly, using “you” instead of third-person terms like “people.”
Jerry Weissman, CEO speech coach and former television screenwriter and producer, has an acronym for the concept. He calls it WHFY (“whiffy”), which stands for “What’s in it for you,” and he counsels public speakers to get right to the WHFY point instead of skirting the issue. Otherwise, their audiences may have to think too hard and end up losing the thread. The same thing applies to teachers and anyone else trying to get an idea across. Understanding the WHFY relationship gives added motivation to act or, in a student’s case, learn.
A psychology study conducted in Tempe, Arizona in 1982 used the same concept but with an added dimension that made it even more powerful. At the time, cable TV was just being introduced, so the researchers used a group of students to administer a survey to area homeowners a month before cable TV became available. All homeowners received the identical information detailing the benefits of CATV, but in some cases, the information was expressed in third person (“people …”), while in others, it addressed the homeowners directly (“you …”).In addition, those addressed directly were asked to visualize themselves enjoying the benefits of CATV. The difference in subscription rates was significant: the visualizing group that was addressed as “you” subscribed at a rate of 47 percent compared to 20 percent for the rest of the neighborhood. (The authors never mention if the study addressed the question of whether it was the use of second person or the addition of visualization that made the difference.)
What the authors drew from this was that the benefits offered didn’t have to be as dramatic as those featured in a typical Caples ad, which generally came across as exaggerated and deceptive.We’re all familiar with this kind of ad: their promises are usually sky-high and their time frames short (“Yes!You, too, can have a brilliantly white smile in thirty seconds, and you can try it for free!”). The cable ads differed in that they offered reasonable benefits that most people would have no problem visualizing in relation to their own lives, thereby increasing their believability—or, as the authors term it, their tangibility. The book further illustrates this idea with an example of a hypothetically rewritten Save the Children ad, where potential donors are asked to imagine their personal interaction with a specific child—her thoughts, her likes and dislikes, her hopes. Anyone reading it can experience for themselves how powerful such a statement can be when translated into tangible, visualizable terms.
If self-interest—as defined by more basic materialistic or ego-centered needs—were the only way of reaching people, our options would be severely limited. Fortunately, there is more to the human constitution than that.
The mid-twentieth century psychologist Abraham Maslow is well known for developing a list of eight essential categories of needs relating to our well-being at different levels, from the transcendent that seeks to help others fulfill their potential to the most basic instinctive needs such as hunger and thirst. In brief, the eight categories consist of the following types of needs:
Although Maslow conceived of these categories as a hierarchy, researchers have since determined that the quest for fulfillment in all areas takes place at the same time rather than sequentially from the most basic to the most transcendental.
According to the Heath brothers, the classic marketing concept is that those categories that work best as a “hook” are the “lowest”: the physical, security, and esteem categories as well as, occasionally, the belonging category. Although marketing utilizes the aesthetic category, the authors believe that such uses are,in fact, more related to esteem, as in the case of luxury items.
There is a twist, however. The book gives two examples that each illustrate three different ways of presenting a large bonus or new job to an employee using three different levels of needs in each case. In the first, the employee is offered options from the physical, security, and esteem levels; in the second, the choices again utilize the physical and security categories along with the learning category. Researchers found that when people were asked which mode of presentation would motivate them personally, they chose the highest categories—either learning or esteem, such as the opportunity to learn new things. When asked, however, to guess which one another person would choose, they chose the lower categories of basic physical needs and security, such as a financial bonus. The implication is that, when trying to reach others, we attempt to access their attention through “lower-need” appeals rather than assuming that, like us, they would prefer “higher-level” motivations.
Floyd Lee, on the other hand, understand human motivation well. A former cook for the Army and Marine Corps, Lee came out of retirement to follow what he felt to be his calling to improve Army morale. Lee was the manager of Pegasus, a mess hall near the airport outside of Baghdad. But Pegasus was no ordinary mess hall, even though it used the same provisions and menus as all other Army mess halls. Instead, Lee and his staff, who were aware of the long, hard days the soldiers worked, turned it into something special, with attractive lighting and décor, sports posters, and—best of all—outstanding food lovingly prepared. Pegasus did such a terrific job of providing soldiers with something specific that they would even leave the safe zone of Baghdad and brave danger to go there.
Lee himself exemplifies someone who was motivated by far more than just the basic, “lowest” aspects of humanity; and because of that, he understood that others, too, have needs far beyond the so-called basics, and he succeeded in providing as many as possible to the soldiers who dined at the Pegasus mess hall.
University of Michigan political science professor Donald Kinder similarly revealed in a thirty-year public opinion survey that larger interests often outweigh self-interest. Self-interest was more likely to be a factor when a voting issue, such as raising housing taxes, would have a direct and immediate impact on an individual’s life; but values, principles, and group interest often had a stronger influence on voters’ actions.
Stanford professor James March, whose work involves several fields, including business, education, and psychology, and who studies decision-making patterns in organizations, believes that there are two essential patterns for making choices. The first calculates the potential impact of the decision on the person’s life, while the second evaluates its choices in terms of personal identity and group values and expectations in a given situation. According to the authors, March’s second concept explains why firefighters in two different instances happily accepted a marketing offer to watch a firefighting safety film and then hurled an expletive at the same marketer when asked whether they wanted a popcorn popper or carving knives as an incentive. The firefighters were insulted by the marketer’s insinuation because they were motivated by a higher impetus stemming from their professional identities—not by their greed, as the marketer had assumed.
The amusing anecdote about the “Don’t Mess with Texas” antilitter campaign illustrates the same idea from a different angle. The state of Texas hired the national expert on litter, Dan Syrek of the Institute of Applied Research, to help tackle their serious litter problem. Syrek determined that the prime offender was a type he dubbed “Bubba,” a relatively young male who considered himself classically Texan. Bubba’s tastes included country music, sports, and pick-up trucks; he was macho, antiauthoritarian, and a complete slob who had no concept of “litter.” The campaign realized that appealing to his instincts, such as fear and guilt, wouldn’t work because of his antiauthoritarian streak. Trying to elicit compassion and environmental concern would also go right over his head, so they designed a campaign that targeted his identity as a macho Texan and called it “Don’t Mess with Texas.” “Don’t Mess with Texas” used various male Texan celebrities from sports and country music to get the message across in a way that Bubba would understand. The idea worked. Litter decreased about 30 percent within a year, and five years later, the average amount of litter between the two categories of cans and roadside trash was 75 percent less. In a way, it was the opposite scenario of the firefighter example, but it worked on the same principle: that targeting an individual’s or group’s identity is a powerful way of motivating them.
The Three (or More) Whys
Much of this chapter has been engaged in answering the question: Why should I care? The question itself highlights the abyss between the asker and the answerer, who holds both the answer and the problem that often prevents the answer from being effectively communicated. That problem, once again, is the Curse of Knowledge. The answerer possesses a vast field of expertise in his background that the asker might not share. His responsibility, therefore, is to find the means of relating the two different experiences of the asker and answerer. He needs to discover what his target audience cares about and then focus on that. The problem is that answerers don’t always know when they’re failing to reach their audience. The Heaths’ remedy for that is to ask “Why, why, why?” until the answer begins to resonate with the target group. This was clearly demonstrated at one of Chip Heath’s own seminars. The seminar was designed to help arts leaders express their organization’s mission in an effective manner that would genuinely impact the audience. One of the participants, the Murray Dranoff Duo Piano Foundation, was having trouble wording their mission statement in a way that would interest the other people in the room. The original statement was clear and compact, but it failed to make people care. At one point, someone finally spoke up and asked what difference it would make if duo piano were to totally disappear from the face of the earth. The duo piano group was shocked by the question, but it woke them up to the level of ignorance about duo piano that was the source of the audience’s apathy, and it generated the much needed passionate response that finally convinced the audience.
Repeatedly asking yourself to express in different ways why your goal is essential forces you to see as others with no background knowledge would see and to adjust your explanations accordingly. If more “whys” are needed—as in Toyota’s case, whose policy is to ask “why” five times until a production problem is solved—then so much the better. The point is to learn to think like your audience—to understand what makes the people you’re addressing tick, what makes them care enough to act.
The chapter ends by bringing us back full circle to Mother Teresa, who instinctively knew that to be confronted with the faceless masses had far less power to move than to meet up with the profound pain of a single person. We naturally care when the issue seems real to us; so the question we need to repeatedly ask ourselves when communicating with others is: “How do I make this more real?”
The Heath brothers also remind us that, contrary to popular belief, the so-called basic motivations encapsulated by the term “self-interest” are not always the best way to get someone’s attention or commitment. In fact, people are motivated by the whole range of emotional and psychological factors covered by Maslow’s “hierarchy,” and these are often difficult to separate from each other. Appropriately, the chapter’s final line reminds us of Floyd Lee, the manager of the Pegasus mess hall, who understood this perfectly and who allowed his own idealism to reach out to as many of the soldiers’ needs as possible.
The Power of Stories
Chapter 6 begins with one of the most compelling stories in the book. It relates how a nurse assigned to a baby under intensive care spotted and correctly diagnosed a near-fatal condition and then, despite evidence and pressure to the contrary, had the guts and willingness to act in whatever way was needed to save the baby’s life—even though it meant breaching medical etiquette and trusting her eyes and intuition more than the medical instruments and the protests of her colleagues.The story, excerpted from psychologist Gary Klein’s book Sources of Power, is, of course, much more dramatically told in its original form, detailing how the baby suddenly turned from pink to blue-black; how the nurse, who had witnessed this particular condition before, ignored the heart monitor and grabbed a stethoscope that revealed that the child’s heart had stopped; how she immediately informed and ordered her superior, the chief neonatologist who had just rushed into the room, about the baby’s condition and what needed to be done immediately; and how the baby revived, having been saved by the nurse’s instinct and courage and the willingness of the doctor to respond.
Klein’s specific area of expertise is to study people who work in high-pressure environments, such as firefighters, intensive care unit workers, and air traffic controllers, in order to determine how they make their decisions. One thing he noticed is that stories are regularly traded in these environments because they function as a way of transmitting wisdom, knowledge, and experience, conveying both career-specific knowledge as well as larger concepts with broader application potential, such as knowing when to trust experience and intuition over “facts,” “evidence,” or general opinion.
Even those of us who work in less pressurized environments may engage in shop talk, and we tend to clothe it in story form and inject it with the drama of the total experience. As a way of communicating information, this works far better than a dry e-mail stating the same basic idea. Researchers have found that audiences of all types—from book readers to television viewers—are engaged rather than passive, creating not only pictures in their heads but maps and simulations as well, which explains why stories are such an effective tool for transmitting information and ideas.
The Power of Simulation
As implied above, a simulation functions as far more than ameans of entertainment. In a study on problem solving conducted at UCLA, one group of students was given instructions on how and why to solve a problem. These included thinking and learning about the problem, acting on it, and knowing what benefits to expect. They were then sent home and told to return in a week. The second group, the “event-simulation” group, was asked to remain in the lab and visualize the exact circumstances and actions leading up to the problem. The final group called the “outcome-simulation” group was asked to imagine the positive effects resulting from solving the problem. Both simulation groups were then instructed to go home, repeat their simulation exercises for five minutes each day, and return to the lab in a week.
Interestingly, the students who did best at solving their problems were those in the event-simulation group. They were quicker to feel better, seek advice, take active steps towards solving the problem, and report their progress. This contradicts some of the popular beliefs of our time that rely heavily on positive visualization, but it also gives us a glimpse into the power and usefulness of simulation as a tool for retracing our steps and recreating the circumstances that led to our problems to begin with.
Simulations work because they activate the same brain processes as the event itself, including seemingly purely physical responses. One example given in the book is of drinking lemon juice while imagining that it’s water and vice versa. The effect in both cases is that the amount of saliva produced, which is normally more for lemon juice, adjusts itself to the mental simulation rather than to the actual beverage being ingested. Phobia therapies based on the same concept walk the subject through the events that excite the phobia, starting with the smallest related fears and building up to the worst. By using a simultaneous relaxation technique that counteracts the patient’s anxiety as he or she encounters the dreaded object or occurrence, the technique enables the person to dissociate the event or thing from the fear.
In addition, mental simulation—also known as visualization—has been found to improve effectiveness in a number of different areas and activities from running errands and breaking habits to athletic and musical performance. The authors cite the remarkable results of thirty-five studies that determined that mental rehearsal alone, without any physical engagement, could yield twothirds of the same effects. In their view, stories act as a form of mental rehearsal, enabling us to live the experience in the same way that a visualization can walk us through the origins and solutions to a problem or rehearse an outcome. The more a story resembles life—the more it provides a living context rather than a series of abstract concepts—the more effective it will be.
Just as stories can be used for instruction or to trade information, they can also function as a way to inspire. We all know the story of Jared Fogle, the college junior who lost 245 pounds by eating Subway vegetable and turkey sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Jared never set out to be famous—his goal was merely to lose weight and get healthy. Nor did his story have a straight and easy path from its inception to its ultimate status as one of Subway’s most successful advertising campaigns. In fact, had it not been for the persistent efforts of a series of people who spotted and pursued the potential of a news story mentioning a successful Subway sandwich diet, the story never would have been more than a local legend.
Interestingly, Subway’s own national advertising department was no help initially. It was Bob Ocwieja, a Subway franchise owner, who spotted and pursued the story.Ocwieja brought the story to Richard Coad, creative director of the Hal Riney ad agency, Subway’s advertising agency in Chicago; and Coadbrought it to the president of the agency, Barry Krause. Once the agency successfully tracked down the mystery dieter, they recognized the extraordinary value of the story and called Subway’s director of marketing, who thought the story had a credibility gap but agreed to contact the company’s lawyers for an opinion. Just as the marketing director couldn’t equate fast food with health, the lawyers feared liability issues. At that point, the story might have come to a standstill had not some regional franchises expressed an interest in running it. They were willing to pay for the advertising out of their own regional budget, but someone still needed to make the ad. Krause then stepped in and volunteered to create the ad for free—something he had never done before and would never do again.
On New Year’s Day of 2000, the ad ran for the first time, and the following day, the phones at the ad agency rang constantly. For the next few days, calls came in from leading televisionbroadcasters and even Oprah Winfrey—a rare event, according to Krause. The top media giants recognized instantly what Subway’s national team had failed to spot, though not for long. Within a few days, they, too, called Krause. The rest is well known. The ads ran nationally, and Subway’s sales increased by 18 and then 16 percent, three times as rapidly as other subway shops’ sales.
In the authors’ view, this ad had all the ingredients of a sticky story as outlined in the first part of the book: from simplicity and unexpectedness to credibility and emotionality. The authors contrast it with Subway’s “7 Under 6” campaign, a reference to their line of seven different sandwiches with under six grams of fat. Admittedly, that campaign and slogan worked for Jared as a motivator but paled in comparison to the drama of hisown real life story. The story’s ability to inspire ultimately enabled it to surmount every obstacleand make it into the national limelight, demonstrating that spotting a terrific story can be just as successful as creating one.
Spotting Great Stories
The authors claim that it’s not natural to spot extraordinary stories (though they say it’s easy) but that a person can be trained to do so. They cite such examples as the inspirational Chicken Soup for the Soul series and Warren Buffett’s retelling of the story of Rose Blumkin, a Russian émigré who became a business legend, eventually sold to Buffett, and lived and worked till the age of 104. In both cases, the stories were not written but spotted, and the authors’ goal in the next section of the chapter is to outline the different plot types so that we, too, can recognize a terrific story when we see one. In doing so, they choose to focus on inspirational stories, though they recognize that great stories come in other varieties,as well.
Great Inspirational Stories: Plot Types
According to the Heath brothers, inspirational stories are characterized by either challenge, connection, or creativity. They describe the different categories as follows:
Challenge—The Challenge plot is distinguished by a hero who faces and overcomes formidable odds. The book gives the famous example of David and Goliath, the Biblical story of the shepherd boy who kills the giant Goliath with his slingshot. Jared’s story is a challenge plot, as is Rose Blumkin’s and so many other tales of hardship or daunting challenges faced and overcome. They give us courage and motivate us to act by showing us that even the most difficult goals can be achieved with the right attitude and persistence.
Connection—The Connection plot bridges a gap—sometimes several gaps—between two or more individuals. The gap can be social, economic, ethnic, religious, or any other condition that sets up barriers between people. The main example given by the authors for this category is the story of the Good Samaritan, which relates how two of the most presumably exalted members of society pass by a person in dire need while the social outcast stops to help him. The ultimate thrust of Connection stories is that, regardless of our superficial differences, we are all valid beings underneath.
Creativity—These plots are about finding creative solutions to problems. The authors give the tale of Newton’s discovery of gravity and the McGyver TV series as examples. These stories inspire us to think differently and try new solutions.
The point of these descriptions is to alert those in business or other types of organizations to recognize the ingredients and uses of a terrific inspirational story. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, a story can be used to rouse people to action, improve morale or relationships, or inspire new approaches—to name just a few ideas. In all cases, it can do so in a way that an audience can more readily relate to than a dry manual text or a list of bullet points. The authors also point out that youdon’t have to invent or exaggerate things. In fact, at various times throughout the book, they mention that the most worthwhile stories, like proverbs and fables, have their basis in truth.
The Springboard Story
A “springboard” story is so named because it acts as springboard for change by presenting the problem along with a potential solution. When Stephen Denning was put in charge of the World Bank’s knowledge management, the new assignment felt like a demotion when compared with his previous role as the manager for African development, especially since the World Bank cared less about the management of information than of money. But about a month into his new job, Denning heard of a Zambian healthcare worker who, in an effort to solve a critical malaria problem, found the information he needed by using the internet—a novel idea in 1996. Denning used the story as a way of presenting the need for change within the organization, with the eventual result that the bank’s leadership not only embraced the idea but made it one of their main goals.
Denning believes that stories work because they engage the “little voice” in people’s heads to join in solving the problem rather than arguing against it, as would be the “voice’s” instinct if the problem were presented directly. Denning himself had always preferred the direct approach, but he recognized that the natural response to directness was usually resistance. A springboard story invites people to own rather than argue against the idea by making them aware of the problem, involving them in the solution, and motivating them to act.
The authors end the chapter by revisiting Gary Klein, the source of the opening story, who now gives us another story that summarizes the chapter. When Klein’s firm sent a group to cover a conference in response to the organizer’s request, Klein’s team came back with a group of stories which they then reorganized into a summary. Although the conference organizer was thrilled with the packet, the attendees, who had each received a copy, were not. In fact, they were irate that their hard-won nuggets of wisdom, which included such barely memorable pieces of advice as “Keep the lines of communication open,” had been shunted aside in favor of the stories they had used as examples. The conference organizer had been so enthused that she had asked for funding to turn the packet into a book but then canceled the plan following the negative feedback.
Chip and Dan Heath see this as a classic example of how the Curse of Knowledge can interfere with our sense of how effectively we transmit our ideas. The conference goers were so familiar with the background to their ideas that they failed to remember that others, on reading the main outline without the supporting stories, would lack the same reference points that they took for granted.Their nuggets of wisdom had the same common-sense ring as Nordstrom’s “outstanding customer service” motto, but they lacked the color and unexpectedness, or what the authors call “uncommon sense,” of a “Nordie” wrapping a Macy’s purchase or refunding tire chains that were bought somewhere else—stories that alone can illustrate that Nordstrom’s “outstanding customer service” is at a whole different level.
In other words, the power of storytelling should never be underestimated. As long as their message relates to the core idea, a terrific story can motivate by enabling the audience to live the experience in a way that an abstract concept simply cannot do.
The Role of the Audience: Idea Metamorphosis
Unfortunately, what sticks is not always what we want to stick, nor is it always true. The authors begin by quoting a couple of misquotes, including the famous line, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” which was never spoken by the original fictional Sherlock Holmes.
The Holmes example is one instance of how the audience can take an idea and shape it into something new. In other cases, the ideas might change beyond recognition, as in one-time Dodgers coach Leo Durocher’s comment about the pointlessness of being anamiable guy if you ended up in seventh place. Durocher was referring to the Giants, but the quote gradually metamorphosed to the point where it became a pure abstraction of the original statement: “Nice guys finish last.” The essential concept stuck, but the form changed.
The example cited earlier about James Carville’s three whiteboard ideas shows how some portions of our messages might stick while others don’t. What, the authors ask, were the other ideas? Most of us probably don’t know. When the authors quote them (“Change vs. more of the same” and “Don’t forget health care”),it’s clear that they lack the colorful stickiness of “It’s the economy, stupid.”
The point the authors are making is that the audience has a say in the final outcome, and the examples above show howour readers or listeners might alter our ideas. They caution us, therefore, to assess the situation, not in terms of the final form of the idea but in relation to the core message and its result: after all, they say, it’s not the idea itself but the goal of the idea that counts.
Spotting Versus Creating
The authors reiterate here that powerful ideas don’t have to be invented: they can be spotted. However, terrific ideas often come in the form of anecdotes from daily life, and the reason we fail to spot them is because we tend to mentally categorize them as relatively trivial. The way to counteract this is to maintain a strong sense of the essential idea that we want to convey. They liken it to gift-giving during the holiday season: if we know that someone likes a certain type of gift, we subconsciously program ourselves to respond when we see an item that matches the overall category or description. In the same way, an action, event, or story that matches our core idea will stand out to us if we’ve managed to embed the central idea in our awareness.
Making Ideas Stick
Chip Heath’s Stanford course, “Making Ideas Stick,” features an exercise that gives students data on non-violent crime in the US and then asks each person to deliver a one-minute speech on the subject that captures the attention of the rest of the class. The other students then rate the speaker. At this point, the students usually think the exercise is over, but after a ten-minute break, Chip asks them to write down all the points they can remember from the roughly eight one-minute speeches they heard. Inevitably, they have a difficult time with this section despite the shortness of the interval between hearing and recording what they remember. What’s intriguing, though, is that there is no correlation between the top-rated speakers and the memorability of the speeches themselves. Not surprisingly, the most memorable items are the stories, but only one in ten students uses them whereas most resort to statistics.
The authors cite two main problems in this scenario: 1. a lack of focus as students attempt to pack too much information into a short space, and 2. the tendency to go for presentation over content. Their point, ultimately, is that the most awkward foreigner, if trained to apply the suggestions in Made to Stick, could easily outdo the most poised, educated native speaker who is unaware of that information.
Additional barriers to producing a focused, memorable speech or piece of writing are the previously mentioned issues of decision paralysis and the now altogether familiar Curse of Knowledge. Both suffer from the too-much-information syndrome. To reiterate, “decision paralysis” sometimes prevents people from making a decision because they have too many choices. The Curse of Knowledge, on the other hand, prevents us from seeing as a novice audience might see and, consequently, from communicating in a clear and accessible manner. We forget that, without the background knowledge that we take for granted, our ramblings might come across as a foreign language to our listeners—a wall of sound with little meaning.
To transmit sticky ideas, we need to counteract both of these issues. Dealing with decision paralysis involves finding the essence, or core, of the idea and focusing on that. The purpose is to transmit a memorable idea which can function as a guide in decision making. Counteracting the Curse of Knowledge involves the same process of sifting through large amounts of information to extract the core idea, but it also implies the attempt to explain the idea in more detail, which, as mentioned above, means seeing as your audience sees and making it relevant to their daily needs and activities.
The “Stickiness” Recipe
As the authors point out, the recipe for “stickiness” given in this section is a reworded version of the SUCCESs formula. Omitting the first “Simple” component, which is more about extracting and constructing rather than communicating the core idea, the formula involves a rewording of the remaining five concepts. Thus, Unexpected equates with being attentive; Concrete with understanding and remembering; Credible with agreeing and believing; Emotional with caring; and Stories with action.
Although the above rewordings might help us to understand the formula more fully, the authors believe the words from the SUCCESs acronym to be more accessible and less subject to the Curse of Knowledge. In other words, in analyzing a message, we should simply ask ourselves whether it matches all the components represented in the acronym rather than trying to second-guess other people’s reactions.
Final Idea Clinic
Using different ideas discussed throughout the book, the Idea Clinic for the final section gives examples and solutions of the types of problems encountered when trying to reach an audience. Following is a less colorful distillation of these ideas:
Attention issues—Depending on when your listeners’ attention lags, insert something Unexpected as the lead, or use mystery to keep them following the line of thought.
Understanding and remembering—Use simple, concrete terms, examples, and stories.Don’t use incomprehensible jargon. Give people something concrete and accessible to work with that helps to focus and engage their own creativity (as in the leather portfolio).
Credibility issues—Use clear, concrete, detailed stories and examples that support your point. Go for antiauthorities, the Sinatra Test, and springboard stories,as well.
Caring issues—Choose a story that brings your concept to life.Try to connect with the audience’s identity, especially any higher-level issues they might relate to.
Action issues—Tell a Challenge plot or springboard story. Make sure your idea is presented in a simple, concrete way that people can easily hook into and remember as a guiding principle, such as a proverb or slogan format.
The final point that the authors make is that it doesn’t take a person with the charisma of a John F. Kennedy to make a memorable statement. They believe the JFKs of the world to be the exception rather than the rule, and they reiterate a number of examples from the book in support of their argument. From teachers and journalists to subway shop owners and mess hall cooks, they maintain that all “normal” people who apply the ideas in Made to Stick can have a significant and memorable impact on their environment.
EASY REFERENCE GUIDE AND NOTES
Easy Reference Guide—Evidently to make sure that the concepts stick, the authors include a five-page chapter-by-chapter digest of the book’s most pertinent ideas. Its main uses are that it gives us a birdseye view of the authors’ take on their own book; highlights salient terms, concepts, and anecdotes; and functions as a more detailed alternative to the Table of Contents.
Notes—TheEasy Reference Guideis followed by the Notes, which in most books are not usually worth mentioning because they give nothing more than references. In this case, however, quite a few of the longer notes make enthralling reading, not just in themselves but because they provide additional details that are unavailable in the chapters themselves, thus making the ideas clearer and more concrete.
Throughout the summer, Karana watches for the ship, still hopeful, but as summer draws to a close Karana accepts the realization that the ship is not going to return to her. Karana decides she is going to take one of the canoes and travel across the ocean herself in the direction where the ship took the rest of her people. Karana should be scared at such a feat, but she is not as she knows she would rather have the chance of reuniting with her people than stay on the island all alone, and surrounded by the wild dogs that killed her brother.
Karana packs one of the canoes with supplies and sets out, the island quickly falling out of view. Later that day, the canoe begins to leak, and though Karana tries to stifle the leak she cannot and knows that she must turn around because the canoe will not make the rest of the trip to the mainland. Karana is flanked by dolphins all the way back to the island, pleased by their presence as she sees dolphins as kind animals that bring good luck. When Karana finally makes it back to the island, she collapses on the sand, hugging it, and falls asleep.
Upon waking, Karana realizes that she does not want to leave the island after all because it is her home, she will just wait for a ship to come, and if it does not she will live in peace with the animals on the island. She decides she must build herself a house, and she will do so in the headland as the village is too sad and to the west is where the dogs and the sea elephants live. She knows that she cannot live next to the sea elephants because they are quite loud and will make poor neighbors, especially when she is trying to sleep.
Karana settles into the headland and begins to gather poles that she will use to build herself a fence for the purpose of keeping out foxes which are proven to be pretty crafty thieves. Karana is very optimistic about the new home she is building for herself.
Karana builds a fence made of whale bones and seaweed, digging a hole under the fence,so she can get in and out of the structure. She knows she must build a house inside of the fence though she knows that will be difficult as trees on the island are hard to come by. She digresses about how fall the trees used to be when the Gods ran the island though they are much smaller now.
Karana builds poles to act as the support for her home and kills two of the wild dogs when they come snooping around her new home. Karana begins to make all of the things that she will need to survive, such as a basket for water and utensils and she digs a hole for a fire pit inside the house.
When winter approaches Karana has finished building her house and all of her supplies and decides that she must kill the dog pack now but first she will need better weapons. Karana makes a better bow and some sharper arrows along with a spear though she still does not have a point for the spear as she has no idea how to get the tooth of a sea elephant as she does not have a net to catch it.
Karana decides that she will go try to catch a sea elephant the next day though she cannot help but remember the law that states a weapon will not work at the hands of a woman. Karana goes to the place where the sea elephants live and chooses her prey, the smallest male sea elephant out of a group of six, mostly because he is alone and does not have his own herd. She hides behind the rocks to watch the sea elephants, still worrying about the law against women using weapons. She sees the sea elephant heading toward a female and takes it as her chance to spear him, though she misses.
An older sea elephant is also interested in the same female and makes to attack the younger one. Karana watches the two male sea elephants battling one another and sees the older one put a large gash in the younger one. Karana knows this is the perfect time to catch him because he is already injured, but she does not because she secretly wants the younger one to win the fight. As the fight gets rougher, and the water becomes tinged with blood Karana leaves the fray, hurting her knee while escaping and listens to the noises coming from the warring sea elephants as she heads back home.
For five days after returning from the fight, Karana cannot leave the house because her leg is hurt so badly. Eventually she realizes that she must leave to get water and sets out to the spring, bringing her weapons with her. Upon reaching the spring Karana finds herself face to face with the dog pack again, though they leave her alone.
Rather than go back to her home, Karana decides to stay in the cave by the spring, considering it her home for when she is sick as she feels very safe there. Karana stays in the cave for six days and turns it into another home, digging shelves in the rock and stocking up on herbs and foods.
Karana likes the cave because there are drawings on the walls that were made by her ancestors. When Karana’s second home is done she heads back to the scene of the sea elephant fight and finds one of the sea elephants lying dead on the shore which leaves Karana free to take one of its teeth for her spear.
Karana notes that the pack of wild dogs increased exponentially after the battle with the Aleutians and the leader of the pack must have been an Aleutian dog because she does not recall seeing him before they came, knowing she would remember his big yellow eyes. Karana plans an attack against the dogs and sets up the materials to build a fire outside of their cave.
When all of the dogs return to the cave, she lights the fire,and they all come running out though Karana does not shoot at all of them, only the leader when he emerges. Karana hits the leader in the chest with one of her arrows though she misses with a second one. She cannot find the leader for several days though when she does she finds him behind some rocks with a piece of the arrow sticking out of his chest.
Karana cannot bring herself to kill the dog,so she picks him up and brings him back to her home where she cleans his wound. At first Karana sleeps up on the rock because she is scared of the dog though she continues to clean his wound and feed him fish. One day Karana finds the dog inside her home wagging his tail, and she decides to keep him for her pet, naming him Rontu.
Karana continues to watch for the ship should it return, and also keeps watch for the Aleuts as hunting season will again be approaching. Karana knows that she must have a place to hide herself and her supplies in the chance that the Aleuts do return to the island. She decides that she will hide herself, Rontu, and her belongings in the canoe if the Aleuts return though she needs a safe place to store the canoe.
Karana spends time working on the canoe to make it smaller and more manageable for her and teaches Rontu some words as she spends a lot of her time talking to him. When Karana finishes the canoe she and Rontu take it for a test ride around the island and happen upon a cave with smooth black walls that Karana realizes will be the perfect hiding spot for the canoe when spring comes.
Rontu sees a devilfish (octopus) in the water, and Karana tries to catch it though devilfish are extremely difficult to catch as they let out a cloud of black to help them escape as this one does. Karana becomes determined to build herself a better spear to help her catch devilfish as their meat is delicious.
Karana spends her time making herself a new dress and fashioning a spear that will help her to catch devilfish. The new spear will have a string attached to help her reel in the fish after she has speared it. When spring comes Karana stores her canoe in the cave whenever she is not using it, in case the Aleuts should return. Karana sets out to hunt devilfish one day, lonely as Rontu is not with her.
Karana let Rontu out of the fence because the other dogs had been sniffing around and she was worried that Rontu may leave her and rejoin the others though she would never be able to hurt him now it that were the case because they are friends. When Karana returns home she finds Rontu on top of a mound surrounded by the other dogs and a fight is obviously brewing.
Rontu, despite taking some blows, manages to outsmart the other dogs and come out victorious. Upon winning Rontu howls from atop the mound and the other dogs break off into two groups and leave the scene, never to return to bother Rontu and Karana again.
With the spring, Karana makes new friends of the animals. There are two birds that build a nest right near Karana’s home, and when they have babies she builds a house for the chicks,so they can stay with her when the other birds fly north. For a while, Karana has to clip the wings of the birds,so they do not fly away from her, but eventually she does not need to as they are happy to stay in her home.
Karana makes herself a new yucca skirt as she had ruined her previous one jumping off the ship to get to Ramo, and also makes a wreath for Rontu’s neck,which he greatly dislikes wearing. Karana and Rontu spend a lot of time walking around the island and the cliffs together enjoying one another’s company and the springtime.
As summer comes, Karana has still not caught the devilfish, but it is not for lack of trying. She decides that she must gather some abalone as the winter is coming though rather than father it off the rocks as she usually does she goes to the reef because there are not as many starfish there.
Upon reaching the reef Karana is distracted by all of the beautiful sea life there such as fish, otters, dolphins, and scallops. Rontu begins to bark like mad, and Karana realizes that the devilfish she has been trying to catch is there at the reef. She takes the opportunity to spear it when it is going after another fish, and she succeeds.
The devilfish is very strong, and Karana has a hard time reeling it in, nearly getting pulled into the water. Eventually Karana manages to pull the devilfish to shore, but it is still not dead,and when Rontu gets too close the devilfish catches him in its tentacles. Karana steps in to stab the devilfish eventually killing it but getting stung in the process. When the devilfish is finally dead Karana and Rontu both leave it there on the shore, too tired and hurt to bring it with them, vowing to not hunt anymore devilfish that summer.
Karana continues to gather fish, and abalone and she and Rontu explore more of the island. They go to Tall Rock where Karana kills some birds to make a new skirt and then happen upon a mysterious black cave that Karana has never been to before. Inside the cave, Karana sees glowing eyes on the walls and skeletons, realizing that these must be her ancestors.
Karana tries to leave the cave, as she finds it creepy, but the tide has come in, and she cannot get out until the tide goes back down,so she and Rontu must sleep there for the night. The next day when they leave Karana tells Rontu that they will never return to Black Cave again. Karana puts her canoe in the safe cave and begins to head home though when she gets to the top of the cliff she sees a ship coming from the north, the same direction the Aleuts come from. She notes that it has red sails, and must be them,so she gathers her things and heads to the safe cave, carefully brushing away her footprints,so the Aleuts would not realize someone was still on the island. Karana sees a young girl building a fire by the shore and decides to barricade herself in the cave with rocks after she convinces Rontu to join her.
Karana tries to only leave her cave at night when the Aleuts will not be able to see her. She likes going up onto the rocks to watch the Aleut fires though she fears the young Aleut girl she saw will find her. Karana and Rontu still collect abalone and roots but are careful to not be seen.
One day after Karana has finished sewing her beautiful new skirt she steps out of the cave to see it in the daylight and to her horror the Aleut girl is standing there.Rontu goes to the girl,andKarana realizes that she must have been his owner before, and she gets territorial though the girl motions that she means no harm and Rontu is Karana’s now. The girl tries to be friendly with Karana, and though Karana can understand most of her motions and get the gist of what she is trying to say she pretends that she is clueless.
The girl introduces herself as Tutok, tells Karana that her skirt is pretty and asks if she lives in the cave, but Karana just points to the west end of the island. The girl leaves and the next morning after Karana has moved much of her stuff to the west end of the island she finds that someone has been in her cave and left for her a black necklace.
Karana leaves the necklace on the steps and goes to sleep. The next morning she hides waiting for Tutok to come back. When Tutok comes to the cave and sees that the necklace is still there she starts to leave until Karana jumps out and yells “Tutok!” Karana puts the necklace on for Tutok, and they admire it together and spend the afternoon trading the names for things in their languages.
When Tutok leaves that day Karana tells her that her name is Won-a-pa-lei. Over the next couple days, the girls continue to play their language-trading game,andKarana finally reveals her secret name. Karana makes Tutok a circlet for her hair out of abalone discs and Tutok says that it is pretty and hugs Karana. One day Tutok does not come by, and Karana sees that the Aleuts are packing up their ships getting ready to leave. Karana assumes that Tutok will come to say goodbye so she cooks dinner for them, but Tutok never comes and Karana sees the ship sailing away.Karana is sad that Tutok has left because she enjoyed having a friend to spend time with.
The Aleuts left many otters on the shore that are dead or wounded which saddens Karana. She finds one otter, which is badly wounded and brings him to the tide pools where she knows he will be able to heal. Every day Karana brings the otter fish to eat so he can get better and names him Mon-a-nee. There are a few days when Karana is not able to catch fish, and when she finally returns to the tide pools she sees that otter is gone,and she knows that she will not be able to find him again as he will be indistinguishable from the other otters now that his wound has healed.
Karana feels she can safely move back to her home at the headland now that the Aleuts are gone, and there she spends her days making new weapons and a pair of earrings to match the necklace from Tutok. Karana spends her time walking the cliffs with Rontu as they have always done, but she still misses Tutok.
As springtime approaches again Karana finds that her home is becoming a bit of a zoo, home to many different animals. The two birds that Karana had taken in and named Lurai and Tainor have now built a nest for themselves and had babies and Karana has also taken in a gull who is hurt. One day when Karana is gathering abalone a herd of otter approaches her canoe, and she realizes that it is Mon-a-nee and its babies and that Mon-a-nee is a girl rather than a boy as she originally thought and she changes its name to Won-a-nee.
Karana becomes close with the otter family and spends a lot of time feeding them fish and abalone. Karana is becoming very close to the animals on the island and decides that she will not kill anymore otter, sea elephants, cormorants, or even wild dogs because animals have feelings just like people do and her world would be a miserable place without their company.
As time goes by the Aleuts never return to the island, and even the otters stop migrating to Tall Rock,which makes Karana realize that the otters who are there no longer remember the Aleuts, so they have nothing to fear. Karana no longer keeps track of time on the pole by her house, and that summer Rontu dies. Karana noticed that Rontu wanted to accompany her around the island less, and less,and one day he wanted to get out of the fence,and he never returned.
Karana followed Rontu’s tracks and found him in the back of a cave where she stayed with him throughout the night. Karana carried Rontu back to the house and set him on the ground to bark at the gulls that were milling about, but he did not he just dropped to the ground and died while Karana felt his heartbeat disappear. Karana buried Rontu at the headland and marked his grave with his favorite stick, some flowers, and many brightly colored stones.
Karana is sad without Rontu and does not leave the house much that winter. She has seen a small dog with the pack that has yellow eyes just like Rontu and she is convinced he must be Rontu’s son. Karana decides she wants to catch the small dog and keep him for a pet,so she tries many different plans to catch the dog, eventually deciding it will be easiest to take him if all the dogs are sleeping.
She happens upon a mixture of tobacco and seashells known as “xuchal” which puts the dogs to sleep and allows her to take the dog that looks like Rontu. The small dog howls all night, disliking being tied to the fence,but eventually he becomes friends with Karana,and she calls him Rontu-Aru which means “son of Rontu”. Karana and Rontu-Aru go fishing and take canoe rides together; she enjoys his company but more and more she misses human interaction and thinks of her sister Ulape and also of her friend Tutok.
On the last day of summer, Karana takes her canoe to the sandspit where she repairs the leaks and holes with pitch. She tires quickly and decides to take a nap though she is woken soon by the ground shaking. As Karana looks out to sea, she sees a large wave heading straight for where she is standing,and she quickly climbs up on cliff.
The wave hits the cliff just beneath Karana, and a second wave comes in that nearly pulls Karana out to sea, though she manages to hold on. When the waves calm down Karana heads home to the delight of Rontu-Aru who must have felt the earthquake,as well. Throughout the night, the ground continues to tremor with aftershocks which have knocked down Karana’s fence. By the time morning comes the shaking as stopped but some damage is already done.
The earthquake has destroyed the canoes and Karana gathers the pieces and floats them to the cove where she begins to assemble a new canoe out of the pieces of the old ones. When springtime comes around the canoe is ready to be sealed with pitch and when Karana is preparing the fire for the pitch she sees a ship in the distance.
The ship does not have red sails like the Aleuts but also does not appear to be the ship the white people sailed to the island at Kimki’s request. Karana sees two men arrive at the island in a canoe, and she goes to gather her belongings in hopes that the men will take her with them. When Karana and Rontu-Aru get back to the shore, they find the canoe is gone,andthe men have gone back to their ship. Karana heads out into the waves to flag down the ship but to no avail.
After two more years the ship with the white people on it finally returns to the island. Karana prepares herself to meet the men who get off the ship by putting on her otter cape and cormorant skirt and also marking her face with blue clay the way her sister had before sailing off. The men come to Karana’s home and try to communicate with her though they do not understand one another.
Karana finally understands that she will go on the boat with the men and be allowed to bring all of her belongings and the men measure her for a dress that she does not like because it will cover her entire body. The men are frustrated that they cannot find any otters, and though Karana knows where they are she does not tell the men. She tries to ask about the ship that came for her family though the men do not understand and we learn that once Karana arrived in Mission Santa Barbara she received the news that the ship with the villagers had never arrived as it had sunk.
Karana finally leaves the island on the ship with Rontu-Aru and remembers the good times she had on the island with Won-a-nee and Rontu though she is happy to be leaving in a ship that is flanked by dolphins.
The final chapter is a note from the author, Scott O’Dell about the origins of the story. A woman, known as the Lost Woman of San Nicolas really did live on the island alone for nearly twenty years, from 1835-1853 and was eventually found living there with only her dog. No one could get the story from her as her language was unknown, but it is known that she ended up on the island alone after jumping ship and swimming back as Karana had done. The woman ended up being buried up on a hill by the Santa Barbara Mission, in a place that will likely be swept off to sea again someday according to scientists.
When they return from Mexico, Maya hears Big Bailey and Dolores fighting, as Dolores feels that Maya is ruining their relationship. After Big Bailey leaves, Maya tells Dolores that she never meant to come between them and feels happy with herself for doing such a good deed. Dolores responds by calling Vivian a whore and stabbing Maya with scissors.
Maya runs out and hides in her father’s car until he returns and takes her to a friend’s house to bandage her cut. Big Bailey takes Maya to another friend’s house for the night, returning the next day to give her money and promising to come back for her later. Maya takes the money and flees, knowing she does not want to face Big Bailey’s friends nor can she return to Vivian with the cut on her arm. She fears causing a rift between her mother and father because she remembers all too clearly the guilt she feels over the death of Mr. Freeman.
Maya finds herself with nowhere to go and spends the night in an abandoned car at a junk yard. When she wakes the next day she finds herself surrounded by a diverse group of laughing, homeless, teenagers.
They tell her she can stay if she follows the rules: no sleeping with anyone of the opposite sex, no stealing, and she must work to contribute her funds to the community. Maya stays with the group for one month, enjoying their sense of community and the dance contests they have on weekends. After one month, Maya asks Vivian to buy her a plane ticket to return home. Though the homeless teenagers are upset that she is leaving them, they wish the best for her.
Maya feels as though she has changed greatly over the summer though when she returns home she realizes she is not the only one who has changed. Bailey shows little interest in Maya’s tales and reveals that he and Vivian are no longer getting along. To attract Vivian’s attention Bailey begins to dress in fancy clothing like the men Vivian hangs around with and, also like them, he dates a white prostitute.
Vivian is furious, not realizing her influence in his behavior and tells him to clean up his act. Bailey decides to move out on his own despite the fact that he and Vivian have reconciled. Maya is very upset that Bailey is moving out, but he assures her that he will be fine on his own; it is simply time for him to move on.
Maya has a desire to work and decides that she would like to take a semester off of school and get a job. She is determined to become the first black person to ever work on a streetcar in San Francisco and after months of being persistent, she succeeds. When Maya finally decides to return to school, she feels more separated from her classmates than ever before because of all she experienced while she was away. She muses that, in America, black women face more than the average adolescent problems because they also have to deal with racism and sexism.
Maya believes that the reason black women have such strong personalities, characters, and beliefs is because of all the adversity they face.
Maya reads “The Well of Loneliness” by Radclyff Hall and it introduces her to lesbianism. She does not completely understand the concept, but she wonders if she is a lesbian because she feels different from the other girls. Her hips and breasts have yet to develop, and she has no hair under her arms, but Vivian tells her this is normal for someone her age.
Maya decides she must find a boyfriend to discover if she is a lesbian but finds that the boys at school are not interested in her because she has dark skin and kinky hair. Maya decides to ask one of her neighbors to have sex with her, but the result does not leave relieve Maya’s confusion. A few weeks later, Maya learns that she is pregnant.
Maya knows she is responsible for her pregnancy and places the blame on no one else though she is not sure what to do about it. She writes Bailey to ask his opinion, and he tells her to keep the pregnancy to herself until she is done with school because Vivian will not allow an abortion and will make her drop out of school.
Maya manages to keep her pregnancy secret until she is done with school and eight months along. When she tells Vivian and Daddy Clidell they accept the news and do not have anything negative to say to her about the situation, despite the fact that she is sure they do not approve. When Maya gives birth to her son, she feels awkward around him and is scared to touch him.
Vivian makes Maya sleep next to the baby when he is three weeks old, and Maya tries to stay awake all night, so she does not crush him, though she is unsuccessful. Later that night Vivian wakes Maya to show her that the baby has curled himself up the crook of her arm. She tells Maya that as long as her heart is in the right place she will never do wrong by him. Maya happily falls back asleep next to her son.
The Chaplain is arrested for various crimes, which are unspecified at the time, much to his shock. He is accused of forgery, of being Washington Irving, and of stealing plum tomatoes. A document that Yossarian forged the Chaplain’s name on some time ago is the only evidence that they have against him, and they sound ridiculous trying to justify their accusations.
The Chaplain is set free until they figure out how to punish him and he goes right to Colonel Korn to complain about the number of missions the men have to complete. Korn informs the Chaplain that all of the higher-ups agree with the idea of increasing the quota to whatever they want, and anyone who disagrees, such as Dr. Stubbs have been sent away.
Peckem moves into his new office which is Dreedle’s old office and learns that Scheisskopf has been promoted to general, making him Peckem’s new commanding officer which makes Peckem extremely aggravated. Peckem refuses to take any phone calls from Scheisskopf and cannot believe that such a dimwit could be in charge.
Apparently the leader of special services was being promoted to general, which would have been Peckem had he not already been promoted and instead went to his successor, Scheisskopf. Peckem is now stuck following Scheisskopf’s orders, as absurd as they may be, and he wants everyone to march.
Yossarian refuses to participate in any more missions and out of pity for the loss of Nately Cathcart and Korn decide to send him to Rome on leave. When in Rome Yossarian tells Nately’s whore about his death and she attacks him with a knife, as does her little sister, convinced that Yossarian is to blame for his death. She follows him everywhere he goes, including back to base, determined to seek revenge for Nately’s death, though it was not Yossarian’s fault.
The officers ask Yossarian to fly in nondangerous missions, but he refuses, knowing that someone else will be asked to fly in the more dangerous ones in his stead. He finds out that Nately’s whore, her sister, and the other ladies living in their building were flushed out by M.P.’s, and he is worried about them.
Yossarian and Milo head to Rome which is in a state of shambles and ruins beyond what he imagined. He learns from the old woman who lived in the whores’ apartment building that they were presented with a Catch-22, that the soldiers could do anything that the people could not stop them from doing, and the other Catch-22 was that they did not have to present the people with a written Catch-22.
Yossarian knows that Catch-22 does not exist, but it sticks around because people believe in it. Yossarian looks for Nately’s whore, and Milo gets distracted by a business opportunity. As he wanders he sees rapes, beatings, and corpses everywhere he looks, he even encounters Aarfy beating and raping a maid. M.P.’s burst in and apologize to Aarfy for interrupting him but arrest Yossarian who is doing nothing wrong for being in Rome without a pass.
Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn tell Yossarian that they want to send him home but because of Catch-22 they cannot. They decide that they would like to promote him to major so his only job would be to watch over them, but, in return, he would have to like them and approve of what they are doing. Yossarian does not want to betray his fellow soldiers, knowing that they will still have to fly an unspecified number of missions, but he thinks it is his only way out so he accepts. As he is leaving the office, he is stabbed by Nately’s whore who is dressed in disguise.
Yossarian is operated on in the hospital and when he awakens he see the Chaplain and Aarfy. He promises the Chaplain that he will not take Cathcart and Korn’s deal, though he had previously agreed to it. He realizes that his only friend who is still alive is Hungry Joe but the Chaplain tells him that Joe died in his sleep, apparently smothered by a cat.
Yossarian drifts in and out of dreams and remembers the day that Snowden died, telling Yossarian “I’m cold.” In an attempt to help Snowden, Yossarian opened his suit, but his entrails all spilled out and, in the entrails, Yossarian read, “The spirit gone, man is garbage”.
Yossarian tries to explain to General Danby about the offer Cathcart, and Korn gave him and why he cannot take it, as he must honor his friends who have died needlessly in war. He believes that he has no hope when the Chaplain tells him that Orr has washed up in Sweden, alive, and Yossarian knows that he does stand a chance. He gathers his clothes and leaves the hospital, headed toward Sweden to leave the war forever. As he is leaving Nately’s whore tries to stab him one more time, but he escapes her and runs off as fast as he can toward Sweden.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.