The Unitarian Universalist Principles aren’t sticky. Not a bit of maple syrup, peanut butter, duct tape, or super glue to them. I love what they say, but not how they’re expressed. That’s my chief complaint with the current version, never mind the draft of the revision, which is even less sticky.
Is there a way to make the principles around which we covenant memorable as well as meaningful? Should that be a consideration? I think so. Especially in the twenty-first century and especially because they are not a creed and most certainly because we are a tiny group in need of growth at both the congregational and national level.
Brothers Chip and Dan Heath have some advice that may be useful for the Commission on Appraisal. It’s certainly useful for us at the congregational and national level as we work on promoting our congregations and our association.
The Heath brothers’ book is Made to Stick and has its own website and blog. Some ideas stick and others don’t. Stickiness is about being “understandable, memorable, and effective in changing thought or behavior.” If the way we talked about Unitarian Universalism were understandable, memorable and effective, our churches wouldn’t be so tiny and our movement wouldn’t be such a blip on the American religious landscape. Yet it seems we aren’t interested in being understandable, memorable or effective much of the time. “When in doubt, pray. When in prayer, doubt.” This isn’t understandable or memorable so it can’t be effective. It suffers from what the Heaths call “the curse of knowledge.” The CoK is not being able to understand or recreate what it’s like to be in your audience’s state of mind – or in other words to lack “knowledge” you possess. Much UU outreach falls prey to to the CoK, like using acronyms such as the CoK for Curse of Knowledge.
Just as UU’s have principles (that aren’t so sticky), the Heath brothers offer six principles to stickiness, which they call SUCCESs (how thoroughly corporate, I know, but, they make sense).
Each of these Succes(s) principles has characteristics and principles of its own. See summaries on the book’s website here.
Succes(s) helps people to
Pay attention – Unexpected
Understand and remember – Concrete
Believe and agree – Credible
Care – Emotional
Act – Stories
You know sticky when you see and hear it. Where’s the beef? It’s the economy, stupid. You also know sticky even when it was never said. Nice guys finish last. Baseball manager Leo Derocher of the Dodgers never said it. He called the rival Giants, a team far below his in the standings a bunch of nice guys. Yet by the time he retired he couldn’t shake it and that’s what he titled his autobiography. Elementary, my dear Watson. Sherlock Holmes never said it. Not once in all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, but he said “Elementary” and “My dear Watson” quite a bit.
Churches, including our own association (Association isn’t sticky, by the way, but Church is) can’t sell themselves in today’s world, a world crying out to reconnect with a spirituality that makes sense. One reason is that we are still very verbal and word centered in a multi-media world, and when it gets right down to it, good speakers aren’t automatically sticky speakers.
“In the average one-minute speech, the typical student uses 2.5 statistics. Only one student in ten tells a story. Those are the speaking statistics. The “remembering” statistics, on the other hand, are almost a mirror image: When students are asked to recall the speeches, 63 percent remember the stories. Only 5 percent remember any individual statistic.”.
Furthermore, almost no correlation emerges between “speaking talent” and the ability to make ideas stick” (263).
You know what? I think I just buried the lead to this post. And that’s not STICKY!