The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is probably old news to many of you. It was published in 2000 and has been on my To Read list since then. Yet, what I found fascinating about this book is that the ideas seem to transcend time. Gladwell presents a fresh, new way to observe and analyze the world which can be applied to the past, present or future. The read was a little slow at times, definitely an academic writer, but the core elements of how to identify a Tipping Point kept me interested all of the way through. Here are some takeaways that I will keep with me:
Law of the Few:
- Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen; the three types of people that will promote and champion your message starting your word-of-mouth epidemic.
- A social epidemic will be successful based on the level of involvement and influence of people with a "particular and rare set of social gifts".
- These people make the idea contagious and they tend to be optimistic people, we are drawn to them.
- A Maven is someone who has an extreme amount of knowledge on a specific subject/topic born out of some sort of obsession, and they are social people, well respected for their insight on the topic. ("Maven" comes form Yiddish meaning one who accumulates knowledge)
Stickiness Factor: Making the message memorable
- In explaining this section, Gladwell uses the kids' show "Blues Clues" as an example of how to make something sticky. The key here was understanding your audience, in their case, preschool aged kids. I thought this comment was fascinating, "If you think about the world of a preschooler, they are surrounded by stuff they don't understand - things that are novel (to them). So the driving force for a preschooler is not a search for novelty, like it is with older kids (and adults), it's a search for understanding and predictability." With this insight, their conclusion to make Blues Clues sticky was to run each episode five times in a row M-F. Educators have always known that repetition is key to learning, but to see them find success in this seemingly nonsensical decision was interesting.
Power of Context: ....my favorite section of the book!
- Peer influence and community influence are more important than family influence in determining how children turn out. Our context/environment has powerful influence over who we are and how we act.
- Groups play critical roles in social epidemics. When something becomes a social experience, shared with others, it has more power.
- The Rule of 150...probably my favorite part of the book! Here's how the argument goes...human evolution took place during the hunter/gatherer stage (pre-agriculture, pre-communal living), therefore our brains developed with a capacity to feel emotionally connected to only a few people across short distances and over a short periods of time. Today, scientists and anthropologists find that people have capacity for, on average, relationships with 147.8 people. This number...150...crops up again and again proving that a group over 150 individuals starts to feel divided, but under 150 can be one unified group.
- Changes in our external environment can have a dramatic effect on who we are and how we act
Overall lesson: the world does not always operate according to our intuition, we can be more successful when we test our intuition according to the tipping point theory.