4.0 out of 5 stars
Diagnosing social epidemics -- a prescription please?, Jan. 5 2004
In "The Tipping Point", Malcolm Gladwell weaves disparate tales of trends and phenomena to create meaning and understanding of change and change forces. He analyzes everything from breakaway fashion developments to fluctuations in crime rate to the captivating nature of children's television programs. He compares trends to infectious outbreaks of disease and contends that messages are spread in a similar epidemiological fashion.
The author diagnoses the essential players in the outbreak of social epidemics. His "Law of the Few" states that connectors, mavens and salesmen are the essential cogs in the cycle that serve to generate and proliferate messages to the point of critical mass, or the Tipping Point. Connectors have relationships with many people. Mavens have deep knowledge about particular subjects and are anxious to share it. Salespeople influence people to take action. The power of the few can turn a small and seemingly insignificant notion into an international phenomenon. Gladwell explores this recurrent pattern and makes it understandable.
An examination of the important qualities of infectious messages indicates they must be "sticky" in order to take hold. They need that little extra bit of interest or flair that causes the idea to hang around in your thoughts for awhile - messages must be memorable.
Messages also generate power based on the context in which they are received. When and where you hear or see something is powerful. Environment makes a significant difference. It's important to note this factor is one over which society can exert some control. Eliminating graffiti in subway stations reduced overall crime rates in New York.
Missing from the book is a strong and clear prescription. How can people harness this knowledge of social epidemics to affect positive change? The idea that we can indeed create a revolution of change, very quickly, and with little resources is a hopeful and inspiring message. The implications could be far reaching for business, international relations and education.