After the first week of the NBA Playoffs, the Lakers and the Bucks are out and a couple more teams are on their way. As the drama unfolds, there clearly are teams that were prepared to stick around. And as the pressure increases, communication takes center stage. It’s not just about who has the most talent or the healthiest players or who has put in the most Hard Work – although these have an effect – but communication within a team is essential. It may be during that critical timeout, or on an off day before an elimination game, or it may be the driving theme created in the off-season. The terrific book by Chip & Dan Heath, Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die gives a good explanation for each of us of how to create messages that connect. It’s not just for marketing and advertising – it’s helpful for coaches, leaders, parents, and anyone who wants to encourage and inspire others!
BASKETBALL – Sticking Under Pressure
For decades, coaches have followed the KISS formula for communicating with players – Keep It Simple, Stupid – and for the most part it’s a helpful reminder, especially during a close game. The Heath brothers have uncovered ideas about moving beyond just keeping it simple to making the message stick. Their formula is summed up in six principles (SUCCESs – the extra “s” is silent!): Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotion, and Stories. The more of these factors you can use, the stronger and more impactful your message can be. Failing to use any of them, usually dooms the effectiveness of your message (See my Made To Stick Book Notes for more detail).
For coaches this is some great insight for making messages stick – especially long-term ideas like offensive and defensive philosophy, motivation, off-the-court expectations, and off-season conditioning. As you implement these principles, the Heaths also advise dealing with the “Curse of Knowledge.” Too often, when you know something yourself, it can be difficult to relate the idea to a player who has little experience with the idea. It’s one reason why many accomplished players have a difficult time becoming effective coaches. That “curse” can also lead to losing the core of a message. It’s common for coaches to use complex terms and explanations that only lead to a paralysis of thinking that confuses the core of their message. That’s one I’m working on! As the playoffs continue, watch the close-up views of huddles, the post-game interviews, and the discussion between games. We’ll see which coaches and teams know how to make their messages stick.
LIFE – Are your messages falling on deaf ears?
How often do you feel like your message is not getting through? Why do ideas like “Where’s the Beef?” “It’s the economy, stupid!” and The Jared Diet at Subway stick for so long while a parent’s request for a child to help with chores is forgotten in a nano-second? Let’s face it. There are so many messages and ideas bombarding us in our world today that it’s essential to learn how to make your messages stick. Whether it’s building trust in a relationship, establishing guidelines for your children, selling yourself for a new job or promotion, or sharing your faith, each of us can improve our communication skills.
FAITH – The Parables of Jesus
As I read the ideas from the Heath brothers, I was instantly drawn to take a closer look at the top communicator of all time, Jesus. Afterall, His message and His ideas are remembered throughout humanity, even by non-believers! Jesus used short, simple stories called parables to communicate complex ideas and boy, do they stick! He used familiar concepts and terms, but often stirred emotions and inspired action with His credibility and concreteness (see Matthew 13:1-23 for one of His best, The Sower, and an explanation of why He used parables).
Jesus set the example for communication that each of us would be wise to follow in our daily activities, but more importantly as we fulfill the call that each of us has to spread the Gospel message. As our country and our world increasingly present ideas and worldviews that conflict with the Christian faith, we need to make that message stick. I believe it’s an important skill for each of us to master. We are called “to go out into the world and make disciples of all men” – that includes atheists, Muslims, and many others, so your message better stick!