Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Tipping Point

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

Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist now based in New York City who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996.His 1999 profile of Ron Popeil won a National Magazine Award.He was selected as one of Time’s 100 most influential people for 2005. Gladwell is the author of two bestselling books: "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference," and "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" , both of which were number one New York Times bestsellers.From 1987 to 1996, he was a reporter with the Washington Post, where he covered business, science, and then served as the newspaper's New York City bureau chief. He graduated from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, with a degree in history. He was born in England, grew up in rural Ontario, and now lives in New York City .

In "The Tipping Point" Malcolm Gladwell is arguing that the spread of cultural trends can be compared with the spread of disease in an epidemic. In a disease outbreak, there's often a "tipping point" a point at which the virus or bacteria start spreading much more rapidly than before, often with no obvious cause for the change. Malcolm Gladwell argues you can track the spread of many movements in any society in the same way.
As any epidemiologist would look not only for the cause of the disease, Gladwell analyzes how these trends arise and how they become insinuated into the public consciousness. He identifies three groups of people who are essential to the creation and spread of such ideas : Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen and describes how they can cause ideas to spread.When connectors, mavens, and salesmen are all involved into an idea, it has a much higher chance of spreading. Vice versa, if you have an idea or a product that needs adoption, it might very well be valuable to identify and target these three types of people separately to push for a better adoption of what you are aiming to spread.

Gladwell looks into why certain ideas spread farther and faster than others do. He classes them according to how fast they spread and how effectively they hold on.The end result is a synthesis of current thinking ideas.
Why do major changes in any society so often happen suddenly and unexpectedly? Ideas, behavior, messages, and products,Gladwell argues, often spread like outbreaks of infectious disease. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a few fare-beaters and graffiti artists fuel a subway crime wave, or a satisfied customer fill the empty tables of a new restaurant. These are social epidemics, and the moment when they take off, when they reach their critical mass, is the Tipping Point.
Gladwell examines this idea through true stories of rapid change, one of the most central being that of Paul Revere and his famous 1775 midnight ride to Lexington, Massachusetts, warning villagers along the way of approaching British troops. A man named William Dawes did the same thing that night; both men rode to Lexington, but Revere set the countryside on fire with his warnings and Dawes did not.Paul Revere's ride ultimately set events in motion that led to the American Revolutionary War, and Dawes has been all but forgotten.
What was so different about the two men and their rides? What was unique about Paul Revere and his ride that tipped the struggle for American independence and forever changed the course of human history?

Gladwell takes that story and deftly draws a convincing narrative through a wide variety of other tales: the resurgence of Hush Puppie shoes in 1994; the Baltimore syphilis epidemic of 1995; the making of Sesame Street and its descendant, the children's show Blues Clues; the Bernard Goetz subway shooting in New York and a novel approach to crime that some credit to the rapid fall of crime rates in that city ten years later; cigarette addiction and advertising; an epidemic of teenage suicides in the South Pacific islands of Micronesia. In each, Gladwell attempts to isolate the fundamental qualities that turned a long-term status quo into a rapid and wide-ranging explosion of change, pointing convincingly to the common bonds that set each in motion.

If you're looking for hard academic evidence for the "Tipping Point" model or even an evenhanded treatment of opposing views - you won't find it here, but you will find a well researched book and a fairly thorough exploration of an interesting thesis. Likewise, readers interested in specific ways to create tipping points in their own endeavors won't find concrete instructions for doing so here - it's not a how-to book, instead leaving the practical questions of application up to the reader. In the end, "The Tipping Point" opens more doors than it closes.
The Tipping Point is a great book by an excellent writer who made his name as a writer at the Washington Post , and later with the New Yorker and even though this book deals with some serious ideas and novel ways of looking at the world, it does so in an very accessible way. It contains plenty to think about, and may provide new ways for addressing current issues.
"The Tipping Point" provides insights into social mechanisms, but also offers a lot of knowledge that can be transferred to marketing and business in general.It is extremely useful to anyone involved in marketing on any medium or trying to spread a new idea,or to anyone who seeks to advance understanding of the complex world around us.

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