Sticky ideas are concrete, not abstract. (And yes—you do want your ideas to be sticky! Sticky is good when it comes to ideas.)
How do you make ideas concrete?
Here’s one particularly sticky example of concreteness, involving engineers who design machines and manufacturers who build them.1
The engineers developed elaborate blueprints for the manufacturers to follow. When the manufacturers encountered a part that didn’t fit the way it was outlined on paper, the engineers went back to their plans. The manufacturers were none too pleased—they wanted the engineers to come down to the floor to see the machine and the problem in person.
The discrepancy was between the projected (abstract) plan and the actual (concrete) machine.
Oddly enough, talk of machines, engineers, and manufacturers reminded me of God’s Law, the Pharisees, and the Jewish people.
Think of how God provided His people the Ten Commandments—a blueprint for living. On stone, these were true and right. But in daily living, these were sometimes difficult to follow—because like the machine, all humans have a part that isn’t following the plan: A heart deadened by sin.
Over the course of time, the Pharisees played the engineers: They went to the blueprints. Some 600-plus addenda later, the Law became complex and convoluted. Few people could remember it all, let alone live it.
All that brainstorming and rule adding didn’t solve the problem. The people didn’t need more plans. They needed the broken part fixed. They needed someone to come and fix the problem.
God could see His people laboring under their brokenness. In mercy, He promised new hearts and new spirits so our inner machine would work correctly. And He didn’t just sit in His heavenly lab reworking the blueprints. God came down and put on the garb of man in the Person Jesus Christ.
By His death and resurrection, Jesus fixed our brokenness. Through Him we are granted new life, new hearts, new spirits. Now, Immanuel, God with us, infuses us with the power we need to live lives that honor Him.
Jesus came speaking in stories and parables that illustrated how we were to live. Such stories—and Jesus’ own life—provide concrete examples intertwining God’s holy blueprint and our daily living into a multitude of applicative scenarios.
That’s how the abstract becomes concrete. And sticky.
Read other Made to Stick posts from this week here.
1. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (New York, NY: Random House, 2008), 114–115.