There’s a great interview with the author of “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” at Guy Kawasakis blog.

Essentially it’s a list of 6 things that certain ideas or products have that propels them to great things. He quotes JFK sending a man to the moon as a good example:

  1. Simple A single, clear mission.
  2. Unexpected A man on the moon? It seemed like science fiction at the time.
  3. Concrete Success was defined so clearly—no one could quibble about man, moon, or decade.
  4. Credible This was the President of the U.S. talking.
  5. Emotional It appealed to the aspirations and pioneering instincts of an entire nation.
  6. Story An astronaut overcomes great obstacles to achieve an amazing goal.

But what intrigued me more was the idea that excess knowledge can bring confusion, paralysis, procrastination and can break the back of a good idea.

How many ideas have been dismissed, shelved or diluted because someone in a position of knowledge said “but it’s too hard, there’s already someone doing it, there’s no demand for it or our research shows it just wouldn’t work“.

“Lots of research in economics and psychology shows that when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators.”

Chip Heath

When ode first started to happen we developed an “elevator pitch”. In essence this exercise is part of any agile development that is supposed to summarise your whole idea.

It’s the pitch you would give to your CEO if you happened to bump into them in the elevator (I know we’re in the UK but “lift pitch” doesn’t sound nearly so glamorous) and they turned to you and uttered the words you never want your boss to utter: “Tell me all about this idea you’ve had. Quickly.

Your response has to encapsulate your whole strategy in all of about 30 secs. Not easy.

So we got the team together and came up with this:

“For educators who want to plan and deliver inspiring and engaging learning experiences ode is a digital content store that gives you trusted content on demand. Unlike all other educational e-content repositories our product offers a comprehensive range of commercial and peer generated material which is pedagogically sound and meets the needs of the modern educator.”

That was the work of at least 12 bright, competent people and me. It does summarise much of what we intend to achieve with ode but if I really want to let someone know what ode wants to be I give them the Hollywood pitch:

“Online content store for educational digital content”

That sentence gives the idea a physicality (the Internet) , a sales model (store), a market position (education) and a saleable commodity (digital content).

Now the Hollywood pitch won’t guarantee you immediate understanding in everyone but the vast majority will have just enough information to make it sticky in their minds. There’s no over-communication.

We’re not interested in achieving a spiritual advancement for mankind, pushing the back the envelope of engineering, furthering man’s ambition to walk amongst the stars, rapidly expanding our knowledge of our universe and developing new technological advances.

We just want to put a man on the moon.