Review of “The Tipping Point”

I wanted to share with you all a great book I was assigned to read for school this week called “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell. I was excited to see this book on our syllabus because I am a huge fan of his other book “Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking”.  Not only is Mr. Gladwell a best-selling author, but also he has been a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1996 and has won numerous awards and recognitions for his work. Basically, he thinks about things differently and unconventionally but at the same time, makes perfect and total sense to the point where you say to yourself “How has no one else ever written this before”. “The Tipping Point” discusses how small ideas or can have a huge impact on the world thus reaching “epidemic” status. He explores the circumstances under which the ripple effect can be most effective.

There are three rules Gladwell describes as being necessary in order for an epidemic to occur. They are: The law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context.

The law of the few states that in order for a social epidemic to be a success, it must be known and supported by certain people who a certain set of skills that make them a crux of a community.  This law is also synonymous to the 80/20 rule, which states that in any kind of situation, 20% of the people will do 80% of the work. Connectors are people who have large social networks, which transgress over different social and economic backgrounds. Connectors enjoy making introductions and have a knack for attracting people and maintaining relationships. An example of this would be Paul Revere. He was able to rally the Patriots into action against the British quickly due to his large network of friends and colleagues.  Mavens are experts, specialists, and know lots about the marketplace. They also cannot help themselves from assisting others and are constant problem solvers. Finally, there are salesmen: charismatic, outgoing, and powerful negotiators who are able to change people’s minds and convince others to follow them easily. These three kinds of people are key in making an idea a social epidemic.

But not just any idea can go viral. It must contain the stickiness factor. It must be worthy of passing on. Gladwell states that many ideas are tweaked and changed through trial and error before they have that undeniable, yet indefinable stickiness factor.  The climate of the place and time is also a factor in determining viral success. The law of context states that the geographical location as well as mental and physical state of the population is important to consider. For example, a group of teenagers in Manhattan began wearing Hush Puppy shoes as a fashion statement in the early 1990s. Because they were in a high-density population with a fashion culture, this trend was able to go viral. If this group had been in the middle of nowhere in the mid west, the trend probably would not have picked up speed.

Gladwell’s book makes some excellent points about how entrepreneurs should go about their business ventures. All successful ideas become epidemics through the combination of having an excellent and unique product or service and making connections with the right people who will help push your idea to the outside world. One without the other will seldom result in a viral phenomenon. This is important to remember as we enter the professional world and will have to pitch ideas of our to upper level executives. I would recommend “The Tipping Point” to anyone looking to learn more about how to have an impact in the world in the 21st century.