How do Ideas Survive?

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan discuss fables. My favourite fable growing up was The Fox and the Grapes story. A fox strolls through an orchard and sees a bunch of grapes ripening high on a grape vine. Despite multiple attempts to run, jump, and grab the grapes, the fox always misses. Finally, he gives up out of exhaustion. Walking away, he sighs, “I’m sure they are sour anyway.”

What’s interesting about fables is that they give us morals. After reading The Fox and the Grapes, readers resonate: ‘it’s easy to despise what you can’t get.’ Another lovely fable is The Hare and the Tortoise with the prominent message of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Morals like these reflect some profound truth about human nature and they are memorable because they contain a concrete idea that readers take out of the story. As a result, the idea travels the world. I heard my Swedish friend once say, “Surt sa räven om rönnbären” which translates to “Sour, said the fox about the berries” (they weren’t even berries, they were grapes 😛). But the point is, concrete ideas are easy to remember, allowing their message to universally persist.

Business taglines and mission statements aim to exhibit a similar effect on customers. I’m a chocolate fanatic. But as much as I love the feeling of chocolate melting in my mouth, I despise the feeling of sticky chocolate in my fingers. For this reason, my favourite candy in the whole wide world is M&M’s, with its advertising slogan that in fact sold millions: “Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hands”. Sweet, catchy, concrete.

Another example is my Economics teacher in high school who devised a distinctive way to teach his students. Every economics term was taught to us through mnemonic devices. For instance, factors that shift the demand curve are PIRATES. Population, income, related goods, advertising, tastes and fashion, expectations, and seasons. (3 years later and I still remember this 😛).

Concreteness helps people learn and remember ideas. By avoiding abstract language but rather conveying ideas in terms that are comprehensible by all, the message hidden inside comes to mean the same thing to everyone.

⁃ SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

36 thoughts on “How do Ideas Survive?

  1. Your professor have good ideas for his students ^^, to help remember what they really need.
    I use this method too, thinking about things and associate it with others.
    Sometimes it’s look like poèmes à la Prévert…
    Fan chocolate ? Welcome in the very big club 😁😉 of fans ^^ !
    Miss G 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  2. 🙂 Great essay, but A- for misuse of two words: “despite” probably should be “despise,” and “pneumonic” should be “mnemonic.” I doubt that your economics teacher taught by using breathing exercises. 😁
    That said, some of my highest respect is reserved for those who can master a foreign language and use it with such expertise as you do. Praying your classes are going well.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My favorite story/fable was Hansel and Gretel. The moral seemed to be ‘keep away from strangers no matter what they offer you”. I loved all of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales but they were a little sad but no doubt reflected life.

    Great post as always, Saania!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Die tagtägliche Botschaft der einen Seele, ihre Botschaft durch den Traum, dem niemand der Autor selbst ist; wo jeder Mensch im Drama der Seele nur eine Nebenrolle zu spielen hat; diese Botschaft ist zur Einsichtnahme für den jeweiligen Träumer bestimmt und gedacht.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In the US, many of our founding fathers and influencers figured out that they needed to engage the public by using simple speech, a tactic popular professionals use today such as Elon Musk.

    One time, my dentist rambled the technical terms of a tooth extraction, and it sounded as if he spoke a different language. He smiled and said, “I’m going to pull your tooth out now.”

    We did get into a little scuff about how much novacaine I needed. I have a lot of Irish blood, so it is hard to numb or put me under, even with laughing gas.

    “The shot is going to hurt you anyway.”
    “I don’t care.”

    I have bad teeth. I was a mouth breather for years, my teeth have short roots, I was given too much fluoride by well-meaning parents, and I had mineral loss, which makes no sense to me. The latter made my teeth appear as if I had cream cheese on them.

    Wah, wah, it was not from starvation. I was stuffed as a little kid. I don’t know why that happened. My teeth had tiny holes in them, too.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. The moral of the ‘Fox and the Grapes’ story, in my view, should be to avoid motivated reasoning (that is, reasoning which makes you feel comfortable and reassured even if that needs altering “reality”), and instead of giving up it would be better to change what needs to be changed in order to satisfy what you desire.

    As for the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ story, the moral I perceive is not to be arrogant, degrading or underestimating others, but be respectful instead, even if the other person is worse at something comparing to you. I also perceive what you wrote, although I wouldn’t necessarily point out the slow part of the tortoise (it’s not like it has a choice, after all!) but mostly the persistence of the tortoise.

    Thank you for your post. It made me reflect again on two tales I had no heard in a while.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I told my husband just last night I have so much trouble remembering someone’s name I know. I have to relate that name to something that makes sense to me. It’s a very unusual name so hence the memory problem. Now I’ve got it locked it cuz I took the time to relate his name to something that rhymes with it. SMILE!! Awesome post! Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. About the fox and rönnbären, it is a rowan-berry, and even though the saying is not intended that way, I kind of agree with the fox. Rowan-berries don’t taste good. I am Swedish myself. That’s how I know. I agree with you. It is difficult to make ideas stick, especially complicated ideas, but concrete and fun examples help.


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