The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point; How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell is a marvellous book that takes will give you a new insight into the spread of epidemics. Epidemics referred to here do not constitute the flu (but do include it), but are about the spread of social and interpersonal events with unprecedented speed and power. The book takes a dive into the three main factors behind the spread; The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, & The Power of Context. Based on a large body of science, and with quirky examples, this first book by Malcolm Gladwell is a pearl.

We all have a friend that knows everything about a certain topic, maybe he is a grandmaster chess-player, he knows everything about owls, or he can tell you all the international airports in the world. Gladwell describes such a person to be a Maven, someone that shares information, but also loves to learn more, to be a teacher and student at the same time. Next to the Mavens, there are the Connectors and SalesmenThese are the people that respectively know everyone, and can sell you anything. Taken together all three kinds of people can spread an epidemic. The first will be a trustable source, the second will get the message around, and the third will be able to convince people of the message.

Making a message stick sounds easy, repeat it often enough and emphasize the product you are trying to sell. Gladwell proposes that it is not about a set formula, but about finding the right Stickiness Factor for you specific product. He highlights the brilliance behind the Sesame Street, and its mission to teach children literacy. More important is the context in which you will find the Mavens, Connectors and Salesman with a sticky story. The Power of Context states that we have a limited amount of cognitive capacity and only when multiple factors from the environment are combined an epidemic can spread. Interesting examples from crime in New York City and the W. L. Gore and Associates really bring the story to life. The rest of the book describes two more cases in which all three factors come to light. If you want to know how a fashion trend gets started, or how to prevent suicides, you should definitely read it.

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996 and has written four books over the last two decades. All of his books have hit the best-selling lists and not without reason. He takes a problem, or social phenomena, and turns it upside down. He will not take an easy answer and be done with it, but finds the hard truths and in the process breaks some myths along the way. To understand social epidemics, and to successfully grasp the process The Tipping Point is a great read.


The Book:

The Tipping Point; How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Malcolm Gladwell – ISBN-10: 9780316346627 | ISBN-13: 978-0316346627


More on The Tipping Point: – Malcolm Gladwell’s official Site – Malcolm Gladwell Wiki – The Tipping Point Wiki – Jonah Berger’s criticism on the first part of The Tipping Point