Making sense uncommon

Sometimes in education, if you are innovating it feels like you are fighting an uphill battle.

You understand why libraries are important, or why websites should be unfiltered, but those with the power to make those decisions may not agree.

How do we develop elevator messages or ideas that stick, as Chip Heath and Dan Heath write about in their book Made to Stick?

I’ve been rereading a section of the book where the Heaths talk about  common sense as the ”enemy of sticky messages.” 

“When messages sound like common sense, they float gently in one ear and out the other. . . . If I already intuitively ‘get’ what you’re trying to tell me, why should I obsess about remembering it?. . . . It’s your job, as a communicator, to expose the parts of your message that are uncommon sense.”

Chip and Dan Heath suggest a variety of strategies for breaking down the “guessing mechanisms” of your audience–by using the element of surprise, by identifying what the unexpected implications of your message are, by using simple metaphors and analogies, and more.

For example, Diane Cordell’s post about her school’s internet filtering made the irony evident(at least to those of us using Twitter.)  

Libraries struggle with this a great deal.  People somehow assume schools should have a library but often don’t know exactly why, as Barbara Jansen and Marla McGhee shared in their session at TCEA.   But there are some expected notions about libraries and some shared concepts of what a library is, so sometimes it is hard to convey to those outside the library what the significance of what libraries do for students actually IS.   People think they already know (i.e. we check out books to kids, support reading, etc.).

Similarly, on the issue of filtering, there is a general agreement that filtering is poor, but that we have to protect students somehow.   So how do we take that ‘argument’ and stand it on its head?   

How do we find the ”core truths” as the Heaths write about and convey them in an uncommon way so they can be “seen”anew?  Ideas, thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Making sense uncommon

  1. Carolyn, great post, the idea of sticky message does apply to many who are trying to innovate in classrooms and schools, regardless of what our role is. I had been hoping to have time this coming summer with administrators to share with them what I have gained through the communities I interact with online. Yesterday I was told they have too many initiatives facing them and this would not be something they would relate to or a conversation that would “stick”. I hope to blog about this later, and I am very interested in any suggestions you receive here concerning what others have done to begin conversations to start people thinking.

  2. Carolyn,

    Perhaps we make what we do seem too easy.

    Knowing just how and where to locate a book or resource might trivialize those actions in the eyes of someone unaware of the years of training and hours of practice that led to such facility.

    My district supports the concept of having a Library Media Specialist but balks at giving me a more flexible schedule that might allow me to refine and extend the services I offer to students and staff members. If I’m not seen having direct pupil contact, I’m perceived to be slacking off or not fulfilling my teaching duties.

    Maybe we need a universal job description so that people REALLY know what we do.

    Thanks for stirring things up!


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