New ideas are born everyday but only the handful of ones that stick create lasting impact. By examining sticky ideas, CLOs can uncover patterns they can use to create transformative learning experiences.
April 9, 2009
New ideas are born everyday but only the handful of ones that stick create lasting impact. By examining sticky ideas, both good and bad, CLOs can uncover patterns they can use to create transformative learning experiences.
“There’s something about the way ideas are designed that predisposes them to succeed,” said Dan Heath, a New York Times bestselling author. “Sticky ideas are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and [in the form of] stories.”
Heath wrapped up the final day of the three-day Spring 2009 Chief Learning Officer Symposium on Wednesday at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla., by sharing what makes some ideas stick and examples of how CLOs can use those principles to create meaningful learning experiences.
“When you have an important idea to get across, it’s important to hit at the gut level … to change behavior,” Heath told symposium attendees during his closing keynote address. “Sticky ideas are understood, remembered and change something — such as behavior or values.”
Using examples from his book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Heath shared how bad ideas, such as urban legends, have grown in influence despite being completely false. Similarly, bad ideas and perceptions can take hold within organizations despite consistent efforts to shake them loose. It’s the CLO’s job to tackle those thorny ideas.
“When people have the wrong perceptions, it is your job to figure out how to shatter them,” Heath said.
While bad ideas can stick, Heath said the principles of a sticky idea can also be applied to good ideas to create transformative learning experiences that change people.
“A good idea is never enough, but a good idea can be made to stick,” Heath said. “What’s important is to spot patterns that [characterize] sticky ideas [and apply them].”
By taking a look at other sticky ideas, learning leaders can create powerful experiential learning, for example.
“Don’t think about what you need to tell your audience,” he said. “Think about what kind of things you want them to experience.”
One of the challenges to creating learning that sticks often lies in the “curse of knowledge,” Heath said. The more someone knows about a topic, the harder it is for them to empathize with a person who doesn’t know. Knowledge becomes a barrier to communication.
Learning leaders should try to escape this “curse of knowledge” by creating simple learning experiences that violate expectations and create an element of surprise. Stories offer a useful avenue to accomplish this.
Heath told the audience they should take ownership of organizational stories, combat false ones, bundle the good ones and share them broadly with the organization. Simply by being simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and story-based – the elements of stickiness – these ideas can create lasting change.
“All of us work hard to make ideas stick, [but] sticky ideas change behaviors seemingly on their own merit,” he said.
On the final day, symposium attendees also heard from Don Shoultz, head of learning and development for BP’s exploration and production division, Pat Crull, chief learning officer for Time Warner Cable, David Lamb, vice president of learning and media services at Rollins/Orkin, and Carol Willett, chief learning officer of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The Fall 2009 Chief Learning Officer Symposium is scheduled for Sept. 28-30, 2009 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. Keynote speakers include Alicia Mandel, director of learning and leadership development for the United States Olympic Committee, Ted Hoff, vice president of learning at IBM, and Rebecca Ray, senior vice president of global talent management and development for MasterCard Worldwide.