Making what I read stick


I read quite a bit. I’d like to say I get something out of what I read – especially the non-fiction books that are typically more expensive and that are supposed to impart knowledge. I think I do, but not nearly enough. So a couple of weeks back, after finishing Tim Harford’s “The Undercover Economist”, I had made a resolution to summarise it (probably chapter by chapter) and put it here, just to make what I learnt stay in my head a bit longer.

(I’m not sure what this says about the way I learn: Is the short-term “learning” a vestige of the (here comes a euphemism) exam-smart mugging we are accustomed to? Or perhaps most books just don’t communicate ideas well enough to have them stick in your head? Or perhaps a compromise is required: books should be clear, sure, but there is something active the reader can and should do as well to make learning stick?)

And just today, I read about Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick”. The book explores why some ideas are like Velcro and some like Teflon. Presentation Zen already has a really good post about this book (two others are featured in the post), and the idea is expanded in this educational* side-by-side comparison of a sticky article and an un-sticky article by Dan Health himself.

Given that ideas that stick, by definition, become part of the stickee’s thought process and have the potential to become assimilated as long-term learning and/or change behaviour, knowing what make them sticky is important. In their book, Chip and Dan boil stickiness down to characteristics that spell SUCCESS. (That ought to stick! :p) And I thought it would be interesting to do my summary of “The Undercover Economist” with the additional challenge of making it sticky. More fun for me, and, I hope, more useful for whoever reads :)

*Just started Jeffrey Pfeffer’s “What Were They Thinking”**, and in his first chapter, Pfeffer commented that “[e]ducation is concerned with helping people see and understand things in different ways, getting them to question previously unquestioned assumptions and ideas, and mostly helping them think and ask questions to uncover some fundamental insights”. That struck me as a very accurate description of what a senior colleague has been doing for me and others (except I am not sure I uncover any fundamental insights). I haven’t always been comfortable when he raises these new perspectives, because there is usually a part of me that wants to think things through, and another part that wants to continue the conversation, so I have probably been less appreciative of his efforts that I should be. Now he’s leaving, and I will miss that bit of education. Am thinking of putting the quote above in some way in a farewell collage that we’re doing for him…

**There is a preview of the book (Contents and Chapter 1) available at this link. Look for a “PREVIEW THIS CONTENT” button below the picture of the book.

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Author: lichone

Ethics by Enid Blyton; physique by deep-fried things. I think we all have an instinct to tell stories and to build things and relationships,

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