“Find Your Red Thread: Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible” is a book about storytelling. Ideas are built on stories. That is how your brain processes new ideas. A story. The best way to make your idea irresistible is to build the story people will tell themselves about it. Whenever you’re asking someone to change their thinking or behaviour, you’re literally asking them to rewire their brains (to tell themselves a new and different story).
In Sweden and other northern European countries, the expression “red thread” refers to the core idea of something, the “throughline” that makes it all make sense. Your idea—your product, your brand, your business, your service—has a red thread. A pathway to action.
There is a problem: There’s a big difference between what you want to say about your idea and what others need to hear. You are also suffering from the expert curse. People are generally better persuaded by reasons which have come into their mind than those from the minds of others.” In other words, people don’t just want the answer. They want their answer. They need to find their own way to your idea. If you give them a Red Thread, that’s exactly what they’ll do.
Your message is the map
Your message is a map from where your audience is now to your idea. It retraces the steps of the story you told yourself about your idea in the language, wants, and beliefs of your audience. There is a formula.
Goal + Problem + Truth = Idea (your Change)
We pay attention to people (characters), what they do (actions), why (motivations), and what happens as a result (effects). Establishing a GOAL—the action of a story begins when we discover what someone wants. Introducing a PROBLEM someone didn’t know they had—this creates conflict and tension, which is the engine of all action. Discovering a TRUTH that makes inaction impossible, because it puts the goal in jeopardy. Deciding to CHANGE—this is what happens as a result of the truth, and it determines whether or not the ending is happy. Turning the change into ACTION—this is what someone does to make the change real. Goal. Problem. Truth. Change. Action. You want to drive action, and you need to build the story people will tell themselves about your idea.
The tools and questions he uses as a running exercise throughout the book. Here are a few:
- Once upon a time, you (or your company) asked a question: “How can we…?” “What if we…?” “Why haven’t we…?”
- Is it one sentence? Is it 140 characters or fewer? Does it use only words that someone who knows nothing about your idea would easily understand? Does it include something your audience wants? Would your audience agree that they want it? Out loud? In front of colleagues or friends? Does it include something they haven’t heard before?
- What is your idea?
- Why should I care about it?
- What is the pain point that’s driving them to look for a solution?
- What do they want, value, and struggle with?
- What are those unconscious questions?
- Despite…… the real problem is……. or People think the problem is x, but it’s really y.
- Why is the problem such a problem?
- Why is the new perspective so important?
- Why, why, why, why, why?
- What concept must the truth add to the goal and problem so that the audience will see this idea as a logical conclusion?
- What is the change statement? Identify the simple, single shift in thinking or behaviour that will help your audience achieve their goal.
- Actions answer the question “How…?” This can include questions like, “How do I make the change?” “How do you help me make the change?”
- What steps are necessary to create the change?
- What elements need to be in place? What is required to make this real, no matter the order?
- Ask yourself, “If the audience achieves this goal with this change, what else could they receive, achieve, or accomplish?” Turn your best answer into a statement that satisfies the criteria for the goal revisited.
- Does it make sense? Would the audience agree with each statement, as well as the overall logic?
- Does it capture the idea the way you want it to?
- Does it feel right to you?
- Fill in “Not only does….. Yet we can agree….. That’s why,….. Here’s how……”
- Focus your audience.
- Define an “Application” of Your Message
- Brainstorm all the potential applications of your Red Thread. Choose one application to work on first.
- Define the outcome your message should achieve. The goal statement needs to express a goal your audience wants to achieve, a problem they want to solve, or a need they want to meet.
- When you know what someone wants, you know where the story starts.
- The story needs to be in your audience’s language, not yours. That means no jargon or trademarked phrases your audience wouldn’t use.
- Brainstorm quotes, proverbs, and other generally accepted social truths that speak to the same core concept as your truth.
- The thread should always have two parts—something that represents their current perspective and something that represents yours.
- The problem needs to introduce current and new perspectives.
- People need a “because.” When you present your audience with a problem, yes, they need a solution. Before they accept that solution, though, they must agree that the problem is enough of a problem to act on. You can’t skip this step.
- Find the problem pair with metaphors.
- Use rhyme, alliteration, pattern syllables, axioms, idioms, quotes, proverbs, etc.
- The truth statement describes something that creates an internal conflict in the minds of your audience.
- The truth statement needs to be a self-evident value. To help with that, it needs to be something your audience can validate without you. It should already exist in your audience’s belief ecosystem or readily could.
- The truth is something that your audience would agree with about the world or themselves. What else fits that category? With most audiences, it’s science.
- When you give your audience a choice not to do what you want them to do, they’re more likely to change the way you want them to. Counterintuitive as it may be, it’s how the human brain works.
- Give your audience the option of a simple, single change consistent with what they want and believe.
- Your audience should now want to make the change you offer. They want to put it into action. But to do that, they need the change to be concrete.
- Making inaction impossible
- Use only words that someone who knows nothing about your idea would easily understand.
- Include something your audience would agree they want—out loud, in front of colleagues or friends.
- Include a new, unexpected way for the audience to achieve the goal.
Maslow for business
Moving up this business hierarchy, safety and security questions often appear as questions about systems and processes. Above questions about systems and processes likely come questions about culture and employee engagement (the equivalent of love and belonging), then awards and recognition (esteem), and then finally about market and industry leadership (self-actualization).
Create internal conflict
All you can do is set up the parameters that are likely to make that change happen. How? Through conflict. Internal conflict. And specifically, a conflict between what someone wants (their goal) and what they believe to be true about either themselves or the world around them. Conflict drives choice. Choice drives change. That’s what your truth statement is meant to do: engineer a moment of truth that creates an internal conflict in your audience.
The moment of truth
Once you’ve found the truth of your Red Thread, you have all the pieces that connect your audience’s question with your answer. The moment of truth forces your audience to choose: Give up what I want (my goal). Give up how I’ve been looking for the answer (the problem). Give up what I believe to be true about myself or the world (the truth). Then, turning your ideas into action is the whole point. In fact, defining the actions you want your audience to take so you can achieve your outcome is how you make your Red Thread measurable.
- First, show that it’s possible to achieve the goal with the change you recommend. So, you need to give your audience examples.
- Second, your audience needs to believe that it’s possible for them.
- Third, your audience needs to believe that the actions are worth it.
AIDA and magic
The red thread has elements of AIDA and Guy Kawasaki’s problem, solution, and magic. The red threat applies to evaluator pitches, longer presentations, TED talks, or the minimal viable message. In 150 words or fewer, you present your audience with the minimum possible amount of information they’d need to understand and agree with your idea.
The red thread of fate
By finding the Red Thread of your idea, more often than not, you end up with the Red Thread of you. You end up revealing the patterns that drive your decisions, the story that you’re adding to every day, the narrative that guides your life and the work you do. In certain Eastern philosophies, the “red thread of fate” (or sometimes, the “red thread of destiny”) refers to an invisible red thread that connects you with others. Remember that your Red Thread is the connection between your audience’s question and the answer your idea, product, or service represents.
The rally cry
The Red Thread you’ve just built—and all the ones you will build from now on—is rooted in your worldview. By definition, your worldview is unique and different. No one else sees the world exactly as you do because no one else has lived the same life. The world needs your Red Thread. The world needs your idea. The world needs you. Help us slay our monsters. Help us save our planet. Please find your Red Thread so that we can weave it together with our own.