What Makes Innovations Sticky and Contagious?
Posted by Plish on December 18, 2016
As I write this, temperatures are plummeting toward -5F (-21C) tonight and a high of 1F(-17C) tomorrow, punctuated by times of high winds and snow…
Windshield wipers frozen and locked to a windshield that’s caked in ice and snow
For those who live through winters where the temperature drops below the freezing point of water, it’s a frustrating and very real problem. I personally solve this problem by covering the windshield and wipers with a gray, black and white snow leopard patterned sheet called FrostGuard.
Others, like in the picture shown above, do something elegantly simple: Elevate the wipers so they aren’t wedged down at the base of the windshield. This keeps the wipers free and makes cleaning the windshields after a snow storm easier. The wipers themselves aren’t caked in ice and are more useful on the ride home.
What is fascinating, is that this phenomenon perpetuates itself. Just a couple years ago, I seldom saw this phenomenon. Now, drive into a parking lot with impending snow and ice, and rows of car wipers salute me!
So, why does this practice catch on?
To answer this, let’s look to Jonah Berger’s, “Contagious:Why Things Catch On.” and “Made to Stick:Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath.
Berger calls out six traits of contagious ideas:
- Social Currency – It makes you look cool or in the know
- Triggers – There are triggers in the environment that make you think about an idea
- Emotion – It involves emotional engagement
- Public – If it’s public people can see it and share
- Practical -Practical is better than obtuse.
- Stories – It’s conveyed in a story
The Heath Brothers point out these traits for sticky ideas:
- Simple -Has a core concept
- Unexpected – It surprises people
- Concrete – An idea can be grasped and remembered later
- Credible – It’s believable
- Emotional – Engages people
- Stories – It’s conveyed in a story
The elevated Windshield Wipers hit multiple points
- Simple – Lift wipers to make your Post Storm Windshield Cleanup (PSWC) easier
- Social Currency – Dude, I know how to make the PSWC. Am I cool or what?
- Unexpected -Whoa, check out the wipers standing in the rows of cars!
- Triggers – It’s going to snow while I’m in the office (or shopping center, or…). Time to do something about it now so I don’t pay for it later.
- Concrete – Just lift the wipers. How easy is that?
- Emotion – We’ve all felt biting winds and frozen body parts while scraping ice off of windshields and cursed under our breaths when the wipers don’t clean the windows, even after we’ve sprayed a ton of wiper fluid!
- Credible – Makes total sense to lift the wipers
- Public – It’s in parking lots everywhere
- Practical – In other words: easy to practice
- Stories – This whole post is talking about this concept. But the real story is told each time someone walks into a parking lot: Once upon a time, a winter storm was coming. As you exit your car after parking, you see multiple cars with wipers proudly standing perpendicular. You go into the office. Meanwhile, snows came and they were terrible! When it’s time to leave, you’re greeted by a blast of arctic as you walk into the parking lot. While you and others get frost bit, and curse over howling winds while cleaning your windshields, Wiper People spend less time in the cold, and are actually able to see out their windshields on the drive home. And they lived happily ever after!
What’s the moral of the story?
Innovations get adopted when people’s paths cross. And they need to be sticky and contagious. Put them out there so they’re easy to try. The best ones end up letting you see the world and yourself a little more clearly. 😉