Thursday, March 24, 2011

Made To Stick

Made to Stick:   Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath presents a theory on why some ideas are memorable but others are not.  For example, you may quickly be able to recall the details of an urban legend (such as a story about someone seduced then having a kidney stolen or getting shot if you flash your lights at an oncoming car with its lights off) but you may have difficulty recalling the data from the last staff meeting.

The authors define six variables to help ideas become "stickier."  Keep ideas simple by focusing on the core message.  Revealing something unexpected will differentiate your message from others.  If your idea or message can be presented in a concrete, tangible way the recipients or audience are more likely to quickly grasp it.  Establish credibility by inviting your audience to apply an idea or try a product - test it out for themselves.  Creating an emotional connection allows a message to resonate at a deeper levels.  Finally, by using stories your message can be easily recalled and shared with others.

Applying these principles will help you avoid "the Curse of Knowledge," that is, when you assume people know what you know but they really don't.  By applying these concepts when developing and sharing ideas you will enhance the likelihood that you will be better understood and remembered.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't Be Like Jabez Wilson

When you decide which activities or interests you are going to pursue, take the time to evaluate how productive and fulfilling it will be.  Don't get stuck copying out encyclopedia pages!

Set in 1890, a London business man named Jabez Wilson, a man with red hair, comes to consult Detective  Sherlock Holmes and his physician/side-kick Watson. He tells them that his young assistant, Vincent Spaulding, some weeks ago had shown him, and urged him to respond, to a newspaper want-ad offering work to only red-headed male applicants. The next morning, Wilson had waited in a long line of fellow red-headed men, was interviewed and was the only applicant hired, because none of the other applicants had hair to match Wilson's red locks.

Wilson, whose business mainly operates in evenings, was well-paid, receiving four pounds a week for several weeks; the work was obviously useless clerical work in a bare office. Finally one morning, a sign on the locked office door inexplicably announced that "THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE IS DISSOLVED."

Wilson then went to the landlord, who said that he'd never heard of Duncan Ross, the person who managed the league office. The landlord did remember the tenant with scarlet hair and gives him a card which directs Wilson to an artificial knee company. Wilson ends the story with how frustrated he is losing the four-pounds-a-week.

Holmes and Watson laugh a little over the ridiculous situation, but Holmes assures him that by Monday they would have the case solved. After Holmes' client, Wilson, leaves (having given the detective a description of Spaulding), Holmes decides to go and see Spaulding, whom Holmes notices has dirty trouser knees. Holmes then taps on the pavement in front of the pawnbroker's shop. With the case solved, he calls Police Inspector Jones and Mr. Merryweather, a director of the bank located next door.

The four secrete themselves in the bank vault and confront the thieves, John Clay, who has a long history of criminal activity already, and his helper Archie. Under the alias of Spaulding and Ross, they had contrived the "Red-Headed League" rigmarole to keep Wilson out of his shop while they dug in the basement, in order to break into the bank vault next door.

Plot summary from WikipediaWikisource has the full story.

Monday, March 14, 2011

No Price Too High

A woman traveling in Europe wanted to purchase a tailor-made dress from a French designer.  Texting her husband, she wrote, “Found beautiful dress.  Price $3,000.  May I buy?”  Her husband responded, “No price to high.”  Elated, she purchased the dress and returned home at the conclusion of her trip.  When she showed her husband the dress, he fainted.  What he meant to text was, “No, price too high.”  It is easy to forget how important punctuation is.

A couple of other great examples from are below.

No Commas:  Woman without her man is nothing.
Version 1:  Woman, without her, man is nothing.
Version 2:  Woman, without her man, is nothing. 

No Commas:  Pardon impossible to be sent to Siberia.
Version 1:  Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia.
Version 2:  Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bad Predictions

If you have ever made a prediction that failed to come true, you may be comforted that you are not alone.

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."--Western Union, 1878

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."--Charles H. Duell, an official at the US patent office, 1899

"Man will not fly for 50 years."--Wilbur Wright, 1901

"The automobile has practically reached the limit of its development."--Scientific American, 1909

"Talking films are a very interesting invention, but I do not believe they will remain long in fashion."--Louis-Jean Lumiere (co-inventor of the first film projector), 1929

"There is no reason for any individual to have a personal computer in their home."--Ken Olsen, President, Digital Equipment Corp., 1980

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the instrusion of the wise and humane surgeon."--Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."--A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."--Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."--Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Burn the Ships

A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy's country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, "You see the boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice-we win-or we perish!" They won.

From Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Harriett Ball - Pioneer Educator

On My drive home today, I heard an inspirational story on NPR.   Harriett Ball was a public school educator who developed unique techniques to reach her students.  She died this week at the age of 64.

Because not all students responded to traditional teaching methods, she incorporated chants and raps to drill facts into her student's heads.  Harriett adapted music that her students were already listening to and changed the lyrics to reinforce content covered in the classroom.

She believed that all children can learn - the right technique for the right student just has to be found.  Additionally, she had a take-no-prisoners attitude and did not accept excuses - from students or from other teachers hesitant to adopt her techniques.

Harriett Ball discovered that in addition to using your brain power to achieve great results, you also have your full body to help with recall of learned material.  Using dance, rhythm, and music to tap both the potential of the mind and body resulted in a much larger comprehension and retention of classroom content.

Researchers in Alaska found similar results in their original study of the effects of footwear on memory recall.  They found that the more comfortable the footwear of the research participants, the better their ability to recall previously learned items.  The best results were from those participants who wore soft moccasins.  According to Elliott Masie who shared this research, "The researchers speculated that the ability to wiggle toes during learning difficult new concepts of procedures was related to cognitive retention."

When I was studying for tests in college, I wrote out my notes on 3x5 index cards and walked around while reviewing the cards.  Whether it was the writing out of the notes or the walking that helped, I always did well on tests when using this method.

Take the opportunity this week to apply "full body" techniques when learning new material or preparing for a presentation.