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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
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on June 2, 2004
The author is a magazine writer and a good one. Magazine writers pretty much screwed up the definition of organizational theory several years ago via word of mouth so perhaps it is time to re-invent the concept of 'theory' as it realtes to word of mouth communication. One Tip backward and one Tip Forward. So it goes.
Move quickly throught the first section on epidemics (sophomoric)but focus on the author's practical defintion and description of a 'maven'...the human with a database mind and how that type of mind fits within various communication and business systems that are emerging across the world. That theme of the importance of the 'maven' in business or in social systems that runs throughout this book is worth the price of the book.
If respect for the mavens among us reaches a tipping point this author will have achieved a new 'theory' of organization design which will move him from the magazine racks to the coffee shops where ...the really important decisions are made now days.
Nice Read. Try it. You'll like it.
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Journalist Malcolm Gladwell has put together what is easily one of the most readable books about social phenomena out right now. Borrowing by analogy from epidemiology, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is a clear, concise analysis of social epidemics and why they "tip" ("The Tipping Point" is the name given to the moment in an epidemic when a virus reaches critical mass). Gladwell says, "If you talk to the people who study epidemics - epidemiologists - you realize that they have a strikingly different way of looking at the world. They don't share the assumptions the rest of us have about how and why change happens."
After studying tipping points in epidemics, Gladwell decided to look for them in other places. He found them in Wolverine's Hush Puppy shoe sales, Paul Revere's midnight ride, the child-captivating shows of Sesame Street and Blue's Clues and the most relevant analysis of teen smoking I've yet to read, among other things. Gladwell also covers case studies of people who have successfully manipulated Tipping Points by launching their own epidemic campaigns.
By breaking down the elements of epidemics into easily understandable pieces and processes, Malcolm Gladwell has written what could almost be considered a metamarketing sourcebook. As he says, "The point is that by the end of the book I think the reader will have a clear idea of what starting an epidemic actually takes. This is not an abstract, academic book. It's very practical. And it's very hopeful. It's brain software."
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on January 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.
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on January 5, 2004
"The Tipping Point", by Malcolm Gladwell, is an essential text for individuals (business, educational and government leaders...) who seek to better understand and generate positive social epidemics within today's society. As Gladwell states, "the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics." Gladwell aptly calls this process, The Tipping Point.
Gladwell's insightful argument is that ideas, products, messages and behaviors spread like viruses. To support his argument, Gladwell, describes how Hush Puppies shoes in the 1990s suddenly became fashionable after years of steady decline in sales or how Paul Reveres "word of mouth" ride alarming colonists of an imminent attack by the British spread more effectively than his counterpart, William Dawes, who was carrying the same message. So, how can we better understand why some trends "tip" and others don't? Gladwell argues there are 3 rules which can provide us with insight into the Tipping Point: The Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.
Marketing industry personnel can take a direct lesson from Gladwell's The Tipping Point. Yet, where the text is most effective is how The Tipping Point can be utilized by transformational leaders to better understand why social trends -fall of crime rates in urban cities, teen suicide and smoking - suddenly spike or dissipate within communities. Understanding human nature is not an exact science. Therefore, by critically examining societal epidemics and their tipping points, transformational leaders can better serve their communities by instilling positive changes/trends to remedy negative societal epidemics.
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on December 7, 2003
Books like this one are useful, even if for no other reason, because they give you simple terminology with which to grasp ideas that are intuitively obvious, but heretofore without any real conceptual framework with which to express them. For example, I'm interested in the stock market and have always been fascinated by the way stocks will tread water for a long time, then for no apparent reason suddenly double or triple in value, or drop like a rock. I'm also interested in military history and am intrigued by the way large battles often hang in balance for hours until a few soldiers achieve a breakthrough at one point in the battle line, collapsing it within minutes and triggering a sudden rout of the opposing army. Now I have a convenient word to use when trying to describe these things: stock market moves and military battles are both determined by "tipping points". It's a measure of how far reaching this idea is that Mr. Gladwell at no point in his book even mentions the stock market or warfare, or many of the other areas to which his central idea could be applied. He focuses more on what he calls "social epidemics", like teen-age smoking, and on marketing campaigns. This book is aimed at, probably more than anyone else, marketing professionals, whose jobs can be defined as the development of programs designed to lead to tipping points for their products. The essential phenomenon Mr. Gladwell is getting at here is the arithmetic of exponential growth as applied to the social transmission of ideas and information. If I tell two people about something, and they each tell two more, who in turn tell two more, and so forth, it doesn't take too long before my little idea has enough critical mass suddenly to hit the front page or, depending on its nature, make me rich. That's the tipping point. The trick, of course, is boosting the idea with the momentum necessary for it to sustain itself through this transmission process, and it is to this that Mr. Gladwell devotes his attention. He reduces it all to three variables that he calls The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. Having laid out these concepts, he then goes on to describe how they work through an array of "tipping point" applications. This is all very interesting as far as it goes. The problem with the book is that, unfortunately, it never really goes much beyond the realm of Pop Sociology, i.e., one compelling idea forced into a slick and ultimately shallow formula. His three rules, which he elevates into repetitive dogma, are real, but they ultimately fail to explain very much that's not pretty obvious once you've thought about it, and they leave much unexplained. The other problem is Mr.Gladwell's proclivity for digression. He's a science writer by trade and is in love with the mechanics of scientific research. In developing his "stickiness factor" idea, for example, he devotes over 30 pages- more than 10% of his entire text - to describing the exhaustive focus-group research employed by the creators of Sesame Street as they sought to sequence material in their show in such a way as to rivet the attention of children. Similarly, in his discussion of smoking, he tells us much more than we need to hear about the biology of nicotine addition, and he tends to run on like this about every topic he introduces. I actually found most of this interesting enough in its own right, but totally off the subject, and if we reduce The Tipping Point to it's relevant substance, what we would have is nothing much more than a short, provocative essay. Having said all that, I still enjoyed the book and recommend it. Mr. Gladwell is an excellent writer, and the book is lively and easy to get through, digressions and all. It's also been hugely successful, introducing the title phase into contemporary business jargon and illustrating the author's thesis by creating a kind of literary tipping point of its own. However, it would be interesting to see the main ideas stripped of the pop veneer and explored in greater depth at some point in the future.
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on November 17, 2003
What do teenage smoking, Hush Puppies, Paul Revere, and Sesame Street have in common? They are used in examples of epidemic growth by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The Tipping Point is the moment at which a product or concept begins to spread at an exponential rate. If you've ever wondered about the acceptance of new technologies or products, you will enjoy reading this book.
Author Gladwell describes three principles of epidemics: the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.
The Law of the Few states that there are certain types of people who are unusually effective at spreading ideas: connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Connectors have many acquaintances. Mavens are experts on products or technology and continuously share their opinions with others. Salesmen are charismatic individuals that are particularly effective at persuasion.
The Stickiness Factor postulates that messages have inherent qualities that govern their uptake and retention. Author Gladwell uses the example of Paul Revere, who on the evening of April 18, 1775, from 10 p.m. to midnight, road thirteen miles through four towns telling residents, "The British Are Coming." Because Revere, a consummate salesman was also a connector, he was highly effective in selling his message, knocking on doors of acquaintances along the way. Equally important is the fact that in Boston, in 1775, this message was extremely relevant (i.e. sticky). Because of Revere's charisma and the stickiness of his message, the British were soundly defeated at Concord the following day and the American Revolution had officially begun.
The Power of Context states that the environment is a major factor in the uptake of messages. Author Gladwell attributes the drop-off in New York City crime in the early 1990s to a deliberate effort to improve the environment by removing graffiti, cleaning subway cars, getting vagrants off the street, etc. In other words, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton halved the crime rate by changing the context of the crimes.
This book is especially relevant in our internet age, when both essays and viruses can hit all connected computers within hours of initial transmission. Richly peppered with historical examples, it is a quick and enjoyable read.
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on November 8, 2003
Books like this one are useful, even if for no other reason, because they give you simple terminology with which to grasp ideas that are intuitively obvious, but heretofore without any real conceptual framework with which to express them. For example, I'm interested in the stock market and have always been fascinated by the way stocks will tread water for a long time, then for no apparent reason suddenly double or triple in value, or drop like a rock. I'm also interested in military history and am intrigued by the way large battles often hang in balance for hours until a few soldiers achieve a breakthrough at one point in the battle line, collapsing it within minutes and triggering a sudden rout of the opposing army. Now I have a convenient word to use when trying to describe these things: stock market moves and military battles are both determined by "tipping points". It's a measure of how far reaching this idea is that Mr. Gladwell at no point in his book even mentions the stock market or warfare, or many of the other areas to which his central idea could be applied. He focuses more on what he calls "social epidemics", like teen-age smoking, and on marketing campaigns. This book is aimed at, probably more than anyone else, marketing professionals, whose jobs can be defined as the development of programs designed to lead to tipping points for their products. The essential phenomenon Mr. Gladwell is getting at here is the arithmetic of exponential growth as applied to the social transmission of ideas and information. If I tell two people about something, and they each tell two more, who in turn tell two more, and so forth, it doesn't take too long before my little idea has enough critical mass suddenly to hit the front page or, depending on its nature, make me rich. That's the tipping point. The trick, of course, is boosting the idea with the momentum necessary for it to sustain itself through this transmission process, and it is to this that Mr. Gladwell devotes his attention. He reduces it all to three variables that he calls The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. Having laid out these concepts, he then goes on to describe how they work through an array of "tipping point" applications. This is all very interesting as far as it goes. The problem with the book is that, unfortunately, it never really goes much beyond the realm of Pop Sociology, i.e., one compelling idea forced into a slick and ultimately shallow formula. His three rules, which he elevates into repetitive dogma, are real, but they ultimately fail to explain very much that's not pretty obvious once you've thought about it, and they leave much unexplained. The other problem is Mr.Gladwell's proclivity for digression. He's a science writer by trade and is in love with the mechanics of scientific research. In developing his "stickiness factor" idea, for example, he devotes over 30 pages- more than 10% of his entire text - to describing the exhaustive focus-group research employed by the creators of Sesame Street as they sought to sequence material in their show in such a way as to rivet the attention of children. Similarly, in his discussion of smoking, he tells us much more than we need to hear about the biology of nicotine addition, and he tends to run on like this about every topic he introduces. I actually found most of this interesting enough in its own right, but totally off the subject, and if we reduce The Tipping Point to it's relevant substance, what we would have is nothing much more than a short, provocative essay. Having said all that, I still enjoyed the book and recommend it. Mr. Gladwell is an excellent writer, and his book is lively and easy to get through, digressions and all. It's also been hugely successful, introducing the title phase into contemporary business jargon and illustrating the author's thesis by creating a kind of literary tipping point of its own. However, it would be interesting to see the main ideas stripped of the pop veneer and explored in greater depth at some point in the future.
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on August 28, 2003
Malcolm Gladwell animates an idea that has been entombed in various arcane academic journals, with real-life examples, character studies, and a simple, engaging writing style. He weaves together Paul Revere's ride, teenage smoking, anti-graffiti campaigns, Sesame Street, and the success of best-sellers to create a world where conventional wisdom is turned upside down, and the reason for so many sudden shifts lie in unexpected places. A lot of our world is determined by context and the fortuitous presence of salesman, mavens and connectors - people that accelerated social change. More books should be like this - short, concise, lively, and well-footnoted! My only quibble with this book - and this is not so much of a quibble as an invitation to Mr. Gladwell to write a sequel - is how can we use these findings to make our would a better, safer place? The dominant theme of these first years of the 21st century is the looming threat of international, fundamentalist terrorism. What is the tipping point that could eliminate or decrease this threat, in the same way that the elimination of graffiti and fare-beaters in the New York City subway precipitated a significant overall decrease in violent crime throughout New York City in the 1990s?
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on June 30, 2003
The Tipping Point is a book simply about how epidemics spread. Why did crime in New York City suddenly plummet in the 1990s, significantly more than any other city in America? Why is smoking among teenagers continuing to increase, despite the largest advertising campaigns today warning kids about smoking's harmful effects? Why was Paul Revere so successful on his midnight ride while his counterpart on the gallop, Billy Dawes, is virtually an unknown? The Tipping Point answers these mind-bender questions and forces you to consider new, and sometimes uncomfortable, ways of looking at and evaluating our world.
Despite the disjointed and vast array of situations showcased to explain epidemics, this book is a fascinating and delightful read if you have a curious mind and want some new food for thought. The author Malcolm Gladwell takes you through his theories of the personality types that must interact on some level to start an epidemic to the actual conditions that need to exist to help the contagiousness of the situation. The author finds a readable and intriguing way of explaining all these epidemics and more -- from social to fashion trends, why some ideas stick and others don't, how something little can make all the difference in creating an epidemic.
How something little can make a big difference.... How can something small, like removing all the graffiti from New York subways, lead the way for reducing crime in New York City? How did a few book clubs in San Francisco act as the catalyst for launching the career of a regional book - Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? How did a handful of East Village kids turn Hush Puppies into the cool shoe of the mid-90's? The Tipping Point clearly shows how making small changes, sometimes even changes on the fringe, can tip the scale to start an epidemic. Now may we find a way to use these theories, make that small difference, and start an epidemic for the betterment of our world.
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on May 15, 2003
There is a point when things change. This change then grows exponentially until it becomes an epidemic (whether good or bad). Gladwell reviews several socio-economic epidemics to identify the critical "tipping point" when things changed ... the catalyst so to speak.
From an information perspective, this was fascinating since it explained several things to me (e.g., why did Hush Puppies come back in vogue). But more importantly, the book demonstrates that the catalyst that creates change is typically not what most of us assume. E.g., the reduction of crime in NY was not caused by adding more police, but changing how petty crime was treated (I will not give away any more examples).
This has profound implications for people grappling with change, whether disease control, job growth, corporate competiveness, etc. It forces change agents to understand that it is not necessarily the addition of resources that creates results; rather the realignment of what is being done with existing resources.
I would have given the book 5 stars but it does tend to go on a bit (like my commentary!) and I did not enjoy the bit about types of roles people play (though insightful). On the other hand, full marks for entertaining factoids, original thinking and ease of read.
...
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