Whether you’re giving a presentation or convincing your boss you’ve got a great idea, making your ideas stick in people’s minds isn’t strictly a measure of its brilliance. Developer and blogger Zachary Burt examines how to make sure people remember your ideas.
In his post, Burt examines a book called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, which suggests that ideas that stick out in people’s minds share some common characteristics they organise with a handy acronym: SUCCESs. The idea is that ideas that stick are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and a Story. Using the Dunning-Kruger effect as an illustration of the acronym, Burt notes:
Simple: incompetent people are overconfident, and competent people are too humble in their self-appraisal.
Unexpected: common sense would dictate that experienced people realise their strengths, and the incompetent should be aware of their weaknesses.
Concrete: it’s not just an abstract notion like “zeitgeist”, but instead something very real that we can experience in our everyday lives.
Credible: it was discovered by two researchers.
Emotion: hearing about it heals our self-esteem. Maybe we’re better than we give ourselves credit for! Indeed, not giving ourselves credit where credit is due is a cognitive error dismissed by Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
But it’s not a Story. Oh well. Alligators escaping into NYC sewers is a story, and that’s one reason it became such a sticky urban legend. However, the D-K effect is on Wikipedia, and in the digital age (where, I would guess, most of the conversation about the D-K effect is being held) linking someone to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect is similar to telling them a story. It’s definitely not the same thing, though, as storytelling is a human tradition that probably has some interesting properties entirely outside of my awareness.
Burt’s post is a good read and worth considering next time you’re putting together a presentation or epic email. Photo by kevindooley.