Learn how to make your ideas stick from Leonardo DiCaprio

It’s quite a rarity to get out for a date night or, in our case a date day. We went to see Inception on Sunday afternoon, the new thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio by writer/director Christopher Nolan whose work includes Memento (amazing!), Dark Knight, and many others.

It’s intriguing, deep, and action packed. And great effects if you’re into that kind of thing. While I was trying to sort out the plot around whose subconscious was whose, I started hearing the SUCCESs framework from Made to Stick. Disclosure: yes, I am in tune to it, but really not that geeky about it. Seriously, Nolan MUST have taken a few notes from the book in his research. If you’ve read the book or attended one of our programs you know that SUCCESs is a checklist for sticky messages which share the principles of Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Story.

The premise of Inception is how to extract and plant subconscious thoughts, using dreams as the vehicle. And it turns out that planting an idea is the more difficult of the two. Not unlike what we do everyday: trying to plant ideas like adopting a new technical standard, launching a new initiative or process, convincing the boss why we’re the right person for the job, lobbying for a family vacation in Florida instead of Colorado, and even getting the kids to put things back in their place (by starting with putting their shoes away in the closet instead of leaving them in the middle of the kitchen floor).

So, Leo (aka, master thief Dom Cobb) assembles a crack team including a dream architect, a chemist, and a forger – all of whom can also kick butt in the process. Their task: to plant an idea in the mind of a major energy conglomerate heir – specifically, the idea that he should sell off and disband the business his father built. And they do it using a few of the SUCCESs principles that also map to the Decker Cornerstones:

  • Simple: The idea must be incredibly simple so that it can grow and thrive on its own. That means boiling your message down to the biggest change in how you want your listener to think/act about your idea – it’s your Point Of View.
  • Concrete: There must be some specificity and familiarity in the environment to allow the idea to grow. In other words, once you get someone to buy off on your Point of View, you must tell them what to do next. Include a Specific Action Step that is timed, physical and measurable.
  • Emotion: Use it! This is the get-someone-to-CARE-about-your-idea part. Why would they do this? Give them the benefits (to THEM), and remember that positive emotion trumps negative emotion. The movie really tugs at the heartstrings here – without giving away too much I’ll just say that parents, don’t throw out all the elementary school artwork.

And it all comes together in a terrific 2.5-hour story that keeps your mind whirling. Head to the theater and go brush up on your communications – it’s a pretty good excuse. I'll leave you with the trailer:

One thought on “Learn how to make your ideas stick from Leonardo DiCaprio
  1. What a great spin on a highly enjoyable film! One of the questions i get over and over is about how to use stories in a presentation and SUCCESs model has been an excellent tool for explaining how to link a message to an emotional response.
    I think i may have to watch the film again with all of this in mind! (well that’s my excuse and i’m sticking to it – although privately i may have to admit to being a film nerd)

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