I want to share some thoughts about a recent book I’m reading – Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The book focuses on analyzing why some ideas have staying power and are remembered while others whither on the vine and are quickly forgotten. Lawyers who have to communicate their ideas – which, I think, includes all of us – should read this really good book.
The real power of the book is that it takes many messages and ideas from disparate subjects and distills the characteristics of “sticky” ideas down to just a few basic principles. Some of the basic ideas are not too startling – like the basic principle of keeping an idea simple – but what the authors call the “curse of knowledge” often makes us talk in unnecessarily complicated ways. Lawyers too often lapse into jargon – an “injury” or “crushed spine” becomes “damages” and “jury selection” becomes “voir dire” etc. etc.
In addition to simplicity, “sticky” ideas have other basic characteristics, like unexpectedness and credibility. The book is worth a careful read to grasp these characteristics. I also found it to be very helpful as I pondered some upcoming trials and tried to apply the principles to my own communications. I do not believe that juries can be fooled or manipulated, and lawyers who try usually meet with defeat. But a clear, concise presentation to a jury that respects their time and helps them get to the real importance of a case in a streamlined way is a worthy goal. This book will greatly help lawyers communicate to juries and other audiences.