Made to Stick – Concreteness

May 20, 2008 at 12:14 pm 2 comments

In my public relations writing class, we are reading the highly regarded book “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. In “Made to Stick,” the Heath brothers outline and develop six categories to make ideas “sticky.” In chapter three, the book concentrates on the element “Concreteness.”

Put simply, a concrete idea is barren of abstract elements. The Heaths say, “If you can examine something with your senses, it’s concrete.” Concreteness provides messages with tangible elements; people can connect with an idea on a basic level. Anyone can grasp a concrete idea and remember its core message.

On the other hand, abstract ideas require prior knowledge and understanding. The Heaths say the “difference between an expert and a novice is the ability to think abstractly.” Experts can communicate abstractly but forget the needs of novices. Therefore, concrete ideas are more easily understood for everyone. Concrete communication improves coordination between groups of people with different levels of expertise.

The following sentence from the 2007 Disney shareholder letter is an example of abstract language: “We live in a challenging and dynamic environment and feel it is imperative to apply operational and financial discipline and to manage costs carefully.” As the sentence currently reads, can anyone derive concrete information from it?

To improve this sentence, the unnecessary abstraction and redundancy must be removed. For the redundancy side, “challenging” and “dynamic” serve the same purpose, as do “manage costs and “financial discipline.” Also, I suggest splitting the sentence apart for distinction between the ideas.

Thus, my improved form for the shareholder letter: Our inventive methods have allowed us to thrive for more than 80 years in an ever-changing environment. However, we must pursue our creative endeavors with our Company’s operations and budget in mind.


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Accenture Blog Review Made to Stick – Credibility

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tiffanyderville  |  May 20, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Wow — your lines are a great improvement to the shareholder letter, Ben! Great work.

  • 2. benson09oregon  |  May 20, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks, Tiffany!


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About the Blogger

My name is Ben Benson. I attend the University of Oregon. I will graduate next spring with a degree in public relations from the School of Journalism and Communication.
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