The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference - Malcolm Gladwell

Just finished this book and wanted to give a semi-review. (It's been at least 10 years since I wrote my last book report?) So for those that haven't heard about this book, it's about social epidemics - mainly focusing on how to cause them, how to 'tip' something from normal happenstance into an epidemic. I came upon this book after reading an article with Malcolm Gladwell in "Fast Company" (biz mag). That interview actually focused on his more recent book, Blink, which I may or may not read in the future. (To be honest, I was more interested in it before I read this book.)

Since I grew up not reading much and much of my knowledge about the classics I learned from my brother and sister (and not actually by reading the books), I figured I would be of service to others now.

So here's my running commentary/summary on the book ... enjoy!

Three characteristics of epidemics – 1) contagiousness; 2) the fact that little causes have big effects; and 3) that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment

Why is it that some ideas or behaviors or products start epidemics and others don’t?

What can we do to deliberately start and control positive epidemics of our own?

Law of the Few – epidemics are a function of the people who transmit infectious agents

Stickiness Factor – epidemics are a function of the infectious agent itself

Power of Context – epidemics are a function of the environment in which the infectious agent is operating

Three lessons about epidemics:

1) Starting epidemics requires concentrating resources on a few key areas. The Law of the Few says that Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen are responsible for starting word-of-mouth epidemics, which means that if you are interested in starting a word-of-mouth epidemic, your resources ought to be solely concentrated on those three groups.

2) The world – much as we want it to – does not accord with our intuition. Those who are successful at creating social epidemics do not just do what they think is right. They deliberately test their intuitions.

3) What must underlie successful epidemics is a bedrock belief that change is possible, that people can radically transform their behavior or beliefs in the face of the right kind of impetus.
Of course, I left out a lot of the details and examples, but if ever a discussion comes up, you can interject with something about Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen and perhaps everyone will look at you with utter amazement, jealous of your all-surpassing knowledge. Or, they'll ask you to elaborate, and you'll be the laughingstock of the group. It's your choice.

I enjoyed the book. It's a fairly easy read - not too long, and he writes very simply. Thing is, most of his writing is based on well-documented events/phenomenons/epidemics that have a lot of previous research. In fact, a lot of his main points are based on prior psychological/cognitive research (with some shoutouts to professors at UCSD and UC Riverside!) - he just puts it in a nice, consumable package for the public masses. Granted, he collected it all and gave it a snazzy name, but in terms of groundbreaking research, I don't think it's there. That's not to say that reading this book won't help in understanding social epidemics and being in a better position to start one. I just don't agree with showering Gladwell with accolades of genius.

If you don't believe me, read it yourself! I'm just trying to do everybody a favor here.

Fed to Brian's brain | October 27, 2005 | Comments (1)


Loved this book! Reads fast, captivating, and fun!

Posted by: Elizabeth at February 23, 2006 05:23 PM

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