Making The FAIRtax
Stick – Part 1
Stick – Part 1
Professors Chip and Dan Heath, in “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold, and Others Come Unstuck” (Arrow Books, 2007), could help make The FAIRtax message “sticky”. Please read this piece and give us your “sticky” suggestions.
The Heath Brothers spent hundreds of hours collecting, coding and analyzing naturally sticky ideas: urban legends, wartime rumors, proverbs, conspiracy theories and jokes. They conducted over 40 experiments with over 1,700 participants on topics such as:
- Why Nostradamus’s prophesies are still read after 400 years
- Why Chicken Soup for the Soul stories are inspirational
- Why ineffective folk remedies still persist (p12)
In taking apart sticky ideas to figure out what made them stick, the Heath Brothers came up with 6 principles summarized by the acronym “SUCCESS” (p18. okay, that’s 7 letters. The extra “S” at the end is added to make the acronym spell an English word). Maybe we can apply them to The FAIRtax (as Dave Armstrong, Tony Leach and David Boone do when they create Memes).
We examine the 1st principle in this Grassroots Corner and ask for your feedback. The remaining principles will appear in future Grassroots Corners with requests for your feedback.
The 1st principle, the “S” of “SUCCESS”, is "Simplicity". Simplicity doesn't mean dumbing down or reducing to soundbites (p42).
Simplicity, perhaps better stated, means to find the core and to state it in a way which is compact but profound. Obviously easier said than done.
Finding the core sometimes requires forced and painful prioritizations. Political adviser to Presidential Candidate Bill Clinton, James Carville, wrote 3 phrases on a whiteboard for all campaign workers to see. One of the phrases was “It’s the economy, stupid”, which became the core of Clinton’s successful Presidential campaign.
The need to focus on the core extended to Bill Clinton himself. Bill Clinton was a policy wonk by nature and expounded on every issue he was asked about (p33). Clinton became frustrated he had to stop talking about balanced budgets despite Ross Perot was talking about them and earning positive attention, and Clinton had been talking about them for 2 years (p34). The economy was mired in a recession at the time, and “It’s the economy, stupid” had to be the lead. The need for a balanced budget can’t also be the lead.
If you say 2 or 3 things, you don’t say anything. We FAIRtax-ers may find the “core” whatever it is, to be a forced and painful choice, but the choice, whatever it is, will have to be the lead.
After this book was published, Trump won with the effective message “Make America Great Again”. Trump found the core and stuck obsessively to it.
Another example of forced prioritization is the Palm Pilot (p48-50). Personal-data-assistants up to then, had been bulky devices resembling television remote controls. These remote controls had more features on them than anybody could use. When Jeff Hawkins and his team set out to develop the Palm Pilot, they took a hard line against “feature creep”. The Palm Pilot would do only 4 things, calendars, contacts, memos, task list, and do them well.
Hawkins’s “core” was a block of wood the size of the future palm pilot. Whenever someone suggested another feature, Hawkins would pull out the wooden block and ask them where it would fit. The answer was usually crickets.
Having found the core, how does one state the core in a way which is compact and profound? One technique is to bring in “schemas” (p54).
A “schema” is a term in psychology to describe concepts the audience already knows and understands
Until I read the Heath Brothers book, for example, I had no idea what was a “Pomelo”. When I read this definition: “… the largest citrus fruit. The rind is very thick but easy to peel away. The resulting fruit has a light yellow to coral pink flesh … ,”. I still had no idea what was a Pomelo.
But when I heard the Pomelo described as “… basically a supersized grapefruit with a very thick and soft rind. … ”, I had a clear picture of a Pomelo in my mind. The picture obviously came from my previous experience with a grapefruit. Here a grapefruit was used as a “schema”.
Finding and stating the core can be useful in helping both employees and FAIRtax Volunteers to make helpful decisions. Southwest Airlines, for example, was profitable year after year (p28-30) because of its dogged focus on reducing costs.
Southwest CEO Herb Kelliher stated the core this way: “I can teach you the secret to running this airline in 30 seconds. This is it: We are THE low-fare airline. Once you understand this fact, you can make any decision about this company’s future as well as I can". Here’s an example. Tracy from marketing comes into your office. She says her surveys indicate passengers might enjoy a light entrée on the Houston to Las Vegas flight. All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nice chicken Caeser salad would be popular. … [You say] if it doesn’t help us become THE unchallenged low-fare airline, we’re not serving any [!@*] chicken salad. Note the CEO did not tell Tracy from marketing to “maximize shareholder value”. That would have made sense to the CEO but meant even less to Tracy from marketing.
So if at Southwest you never forget the core message, therefore, many choices and decisions which could cause “analysis paralysis” fall neatly into place.
We FAIRtax-ers could make more effective decisions if
we have a core message of our own, stated compactly and profoundly.
An enemy of finding the core is identified by the Heaths as the “Curse of Knowledge”. We FAIRtax-ers know this curse because we understand how The FAIRtax works and can no longer un-know it. Knowledge draws us to address The FAIRtax at a level of detail we consider important but a general audience could find extraneous.
Most of our audiences have no previous knowledge of The FAIRtax, and some even have little-to-no understanding of the taxes being replaced by The FAIRtax. We forget about what our audience doesn’t know. The Curse of Knowledge pushes us to talk past them.
The Curse of Knowledge and finding the core are integral to the “Simple” of the acronym “SUCCESS”. Having examined this 1st principle, we now need your input.
What do you think the “core” of The FAIRtax should be? Please click here to email your submissions to us Your ideas may change as we go through the remaining principles of the “SUCCESS" acronym. Your ideas may also fundamentally change how FAIRtax outsiders and FAIRtax Volunteers think of The FAIRtax.
I would like to depart from the Heath Brothers’ book and finish this piece with our Mission & Vision statements from 2014. They still apply today and can serve as an inspiration for a “sticky” FAIRtax message. The Heath Brothers would probably consider our Mission & Vision statements the 1st and 3rd elements described in Martin Gladwell’s brilliant book, “The Tipping Point”, which examines why some social phenomena “tip” from small groups to big groups. The 1st is the need to bring together the right people, and the 3rd is the need to achieve the right context. The need for “stickiness” comes in the middle.
Our Mission Statement 6/15/2014 - "Pass The FAIRtax”!
Our Vision Statement 6/15/2014: “A reinvigorated U.S. economy with millions of new good paying jobs under a federal-tax-system which:
- "Encourages a culture of savings and capital formation"
- "Provides adequate funding for current and future national spending priorities"
- "Restores the freedom, dignity and privacy of the taxpayer"
- "Positions the U.S. to compete globally"
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