The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is a fresh look at why some things become trends and others don’t. We are all familiar with and a part of trends, fads, and cultural shifts, but often we don’t understand them because there are too many moving parts to think about.

In this book, Gladwell zooms in on the relatively microscopic people, aspects, and conditions that spread those trends. He uses the overarching metaphor of an “epidemic” as a visualization of how ideas spread. According to Gladwell there are three conditions necessary to create epidemics. The first one is “The Law of the Few”, which states that there’s a 80/20 Principle. This principle says that 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people. The second rule is “The Stickiness Factor”. This factor points to information and the types of information that will stay with you, stick with you, like a kick-ass commercial that touched on something for you. The third rule is “The Power of Context”, which is all about sensitivity to our surroundings and how it can influence us whether we accept it or not.

In the first rule, “The Law of the Few”, Gladwell divides people into three major groups: Connectors, mavens and salesmen. “Connectors” are what I call social addicts. These people thrive on human interaction. They have social power and this is what’s needed to bring people together for the impending epidemic.

“Mavens” are the information junkies who actually read the freakin’ manual, calls the 1-800 number of a company and cross their Ts and dots their Is for them. These are the guys who learn anything they can from a product. These are the guys who can tell you where to get the best deal for whatever you desire to purchase.

The third player type is the “salesman”. The name says it all. These will sell an Eskimo a freezer. Why? Because they have this ability to mind-meld with people, get into the proper frame of mind and can get anyone to agree with them, they can convince anyone, therefore sell anything.

For most of us, trends and ideas are just things that happen around us. Much of what Gladwell is doing makes causes and effects that are too big to think about more human and personal. In that way, he gives us something to grab hold of. Of course, it’s impossible to ever know for sure why one fad happens and another doesn’t make it out of the gate, but by the end of the book Gladwell has drilled down into the minuscule factors and created a compelling breakdown on how it generally works. 

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