02 November 2010

Linchpins are Sticky

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know I loved 2 books recently: Linchpin and Made to Stick. But even though they deal with different stuff, they have a common overall theme: being remarkable. Linchpin is about being remarkable and Made to Stick is about making ideas remarkable. Both deal with being remarkable in different ways, but a common trait of both is the “unexpected” as worth remembering. Break people’s guessing machine and the situation/story/person sticks to their minds.

I talked to hundreds of people in call centers, 99,9% of them were terrible, making me just to kill myself: the idiot waiting music, the robotic voice, the script that doesn’t fit with my question… last month I called the corporate travel booker of American Express, I was having some troubles to login, since it was my first time using it. The person that got my call was not only sounding genuinely human, she helped to solve my problem AND translated a document from Norwegian to English so I could understand better myself. An remarkable linchpin I will never forget – it broke my guessing machine by being human and by taking the extra mile of translating a small reference guide so I could learn.

Making ideas stick follow the same principle, one of the ways to make ideas stick is the unexpected. So there is no surprise when Made to Stick is full of linchpin stories, like :

A flight attendant that cracked jokes on the obligatory safety announcements, something like “If I could have your attention for a few moments, we sure would love to point out these safety features. If you haven’t been in an automobile since 1965, the proper way to fasten your seat belt is to slide the flat end into the buckle. To unfasten, lift it up on the buckle to release it. And as the song goes, there might be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only six ways to leave this aircraft: 2 forward exit doors, 2 over-the-wing removable windows, and 2 aft exit doors. The locations of each exit is clearly marked with signs over-head, as well as red and white disco lights along the floor of the aisle. Made ya look!”

Or an army cook that runs a mess hall in Iraq that, with the same supplies as any other US army kitchen, made military people drive hundreds of kilometers (even through zones considered dangerous) to eat his food. Suddenly the person responsible for the deserts starts saying that her cakes are “sexy” (how unexpected is “sexy” and “army food” in the same phrase?) If you talk to the cook who manages the whole stuff, he doesn’t say his role is to cook, no, he is in charge of the morale.

Key take-away: if you break people’s guessing machines, break the pattern, do something unexpected, they will remember you and/or your idea. The only thing you have to take care is to make unexpected for the sake of being unexpected. People will remember you if you are presenting a business idea and suddenly you take off your clothes, but while that does help you get remembered, people will remember the wrong stuff (that crazy guy who took off his clothes), not the business idea. So the unexpectedness has to be connected to the point you are trying to convey.

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