Malcolm Gladwell‘s phenomenal book, The Tipping Point. Having encountered the phrase “tipping point” in many magazine, news and blog articles as it had become a by-word among writers, economists and analysts, I thought I’d better buy the book to better understand the subject. I made the right decision. I have finally found time to make a short review of
Gladwell’s work is a gem. It explains how trends and phenomena happen, the processes and people involved, and how small changes can influence large sections of societies. It reaffirms the idea that humans are profoundly social animals that affect, and are affected by, their immediate environments.
Tipping Point is when “an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire” among societies. A social phenomenon has three dimensions, namely, people, stickiness and context.
There are three kinds of people that start off trends: (1) connectors whose vast expanse of personal connections cover an assortment of social, professional and cultural groups, embodying the adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know”; (2) mavens are basically your know-it-alls who collect knowledge and information about products, services and whatever strikes their fancy; (3) salesmen are those who are gifted with the power of persuasion. All these three have the ability to “click” with nearly anyone who happens by their orbits.
Stickiness, the second dimension, refers to the power of a message to remain with an intended receiver. It not only catches one’s attention, it stays in the mind of the message’s recipient. Stickiness is that little detail that sets the difference between a message’s acceptability and its tendency to be disregarded.
Context is an important factor in tipping point, in that people’s actions and decisions do not happen in a vacuum. Environment not only refers to the physical surroundings but also the actions of others. Epidemics are built upon recurring social issues in the times and places in which such happen. And while there are those who trailblaze, much of humanity still find comfort in acquiescence. Moreover, people’s decisions are often affected by the quality and quantity of the groups to which they belong. The rule of 150 suggests that groups under the size of 150 persons are more effective; beyond 150, personal bonds and lines of communication among members start to deteriorate.
In the end, the tipping point is about that slight change, the small detail, that sets an idea, behavior or product towards wider social acceptance. And the trick lies in finding it.