A “felt need” is what differentiates a vitamin from an aspirin: when we crave something (relief from pain), a product that satisfies that desire becomes a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. Realising this and re-framing a product in terms of this craving is an important step in ensuring a product’s success, say Dan and Chip Heath, authors of the excellentÂ SwitchÂ andÂ Made to Stick.
Becoming aware of this idea is what led to the success of Netflix and NetAppâ€¦Â as well as the demise of countless other companies. In a brief article describing how re-framing a nice-to-have product as a must-have is all about discovering and exploiting a specific “felt need”, the Heaths look at Ray Bards failed attempt at getting his “vitamin” bookÂ publishedÂ and how realizing this idea of a felt need led him to become a successful publisher.
If entrepreneurs want to succeed [â€¦] they’d better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins. Vitamins are nice; they’re healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. [â€¦]
That aspirin quality is what Bard now looks for in a book. He says that successful books address a deep “felt need” — that is, readers hunger for the answers the book provides. Classic examples would be diet books, personal-finance books, and books that promise you mega success if you’ll just radiate positive energy to the universe, indicating your receptivity to mega success. Bard has become a talented diviner of felt need. Fully half of the books that he publishes become best sellers. [â€¦]
You’ve heard the old saying “If you invent a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” Don’t bet on it. The world’s felt need isn’t for a better mousetrap. It’s for a dead mouse.Â [â€¦]
When engineers or marketers or entrepreneurs get too close to their products, it’s easy to mistake a vitamin for an aspirin. If your team is flirting with delusion, a little love might point you in the right direction.
In an excerpt from Made to Stick, brothers Dan and Chip Heath provide an outline of the six principles of creating ‘sticky’ ideas:
- Simplicity: “We must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. [â€¦] Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.”
- Unexpectedness: “We need to violate people’s expectations. We need to be counterintuitive. [â€¦] For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity. [â€¦] We can engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time by systematically “opening gaps” in their knowledge â€” and then filling those gaps.”
- Concreteness: “We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information.”
- Credibility: “Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves â€” a ‘try before you buy’ philosophy for the world of ideas.”
- Emotions: “How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something. [â€¦] We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions.”
- Stories: “How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. [â€¦] Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.”
When there is a large-scale and wide-ranging problem that needs a solution, we shouldn’t attempt to solve it with an equally large solution but instead attempt to break the issue down and find outlying successes to replicate.
That’s the wisdom of Dan and Chip Heath–authors of Made to Stick and Switch–saying that to solve complex problems we should change our way of thinking to ‘bright-spot’ analysis and attempt to scale small successes.
That’s the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there’s a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot — a ray of hope. [â€¦]
Our rational brain has a problem focus when it needs a solution focus. If you are a manager, ask yourself, What is the ratio of the time you spend solving problems versus scaling successes?
We need to switch from archaeological problem solving to bright-spot evangelizing. [â€¦] Even in failure there is success. [â€¦]
These flashes of success, these bright spots, can provide our road map for action — and the hope that change is possible.