Review: Made to Stick

Book cover of 'Made to Stick'

by Chip and Dan Heath

After reading their book on change management, I was curious to discover what the Heath brothers had to say about an even more fundamental topic: communication.

And their previous book on the topic, called "Made to stick", did not disappoint and even managed to surprise me with its final advice.


The authors provide a model of what makes a message heard and remembered. As part of this model, they list 6 typical ingredients of messages that land with their audience in the most impactful way.

The description of these ingredients taps into various aspects of how humans react to and process an information or a story, talking about emotions, rationality and memory.

And the 7th ingredient, which in reality is more of a precious advice, called my attention and gave an interesting spin to this recipe.

Proof is in the pudding

Dog-bowl - Delapouite - game-icons

As with their other book, the very structure of the content is a live demonstration of the authors' point. And I still find it quite interesting to see how deliberate they are to design their own book's content by applying the same recipes they advocate for. They are masters at "eating their own dog food" as I would say in another context.

The book itself is built as a collation of lively case studies. Each case is dissected to highlight at least one of the ingredients that contribute to make a message or a story remembered. Each case is also picked for being a story worth remembering. Finally some additional cases are presented as a way for the reader to practice their understanding of the previous chapter.

As a parting gift, the book ends with a section that synthetizes all the ingredients in a much shorter form (typically ommitting the case studies). This provides a quicker reference to the reader who wants to apply the same recipe. Incidentally this also makes it even more lame for me to try to summarize the book's content ;)

Time for a big reveal or two ?

The reading was engaging and informative and I appreciate being provided with a model anchored in practical facts. So, of course I liked reading this book.

Another good property of this book is to serve as a medicine against the "curse of knowledge" (as it is named by the authors) by reminding us that it is often the point of communication to share something you know to people who know much less about what you're going to share. So, speaking from the top of your own "knowledge mountain" may prevent you from being heard by those who are still much closer to the valley, so to speak. In such situation you need to meet the audience where they stand.

A woman picking apples

And now for the final reveal... As you may have guessed the book looks a lot like a recipe to cook an impactful message. But, towards the end it takes a different spin to be much more about recognizing what is a good story to tell. The authors make it very clear that no one needs to "invent" neither the message nor how to communicate it.

The book trains you to recognize the right ingredients and, it's up to you to recognize a good and meaningful story when you see or hear one.