Book review – Thinley Paday

The “Tipping point” is built on the idea that little things can cause big changes- when a small number of people start acting differently, such behavior can impact a larger audience until a ‘tipping point’ is attained, gradually changing the world as it unfolds. Malcolm Gladwell revolves his ideas around the conceptualization of epidemics and viral marketing, dovetailing analogies and examples. He further explains how the crime –infested New York City tackled the issue in the mid-1990s, and the revival of the ‘Hush Puppies shoes” and how an unknown author ended up as one of the best –selling authors. All these examples underpin how a small change in the environment can finally result in the desired outcome, which is the very start of an epidemic.

Subsequently, the author asserts that any message, idea or products sells unexpectedly well through means of ‘word of mouth epidemics’ .The author describes in details the three very rules of starting epidemics, which are outlined as follows:

• Law of the Few
• The Stickiness Factor
• And the Power of Context

The “ Law of the Few” states that only a selected few/ individuals who embodies a set of talents or social gifts are capable of instigating social epidemics and making it spread like wild fire. These three key actors are Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. Connectors, being the social animal that they are can easily bridge the people within their network and beyond, in a maximum of six steps. The mavens are apt at sharing knowledge with a wide array of information whereas the salesmen are well versed in the art of persuading the common masses with an oblivion nature.

Coming to the second rule, according to the author, stickiness is the virtue by which a particular idea, object or a product becomes interesting and catchy enough to start an epidemic. Gladwell easily grabs the reader’s attention by closely tying the story of how the television show of “Sesame street” started a learning epidemic, making it one of the most successful show. He explains the in-depth study that was carried out by the producers and the number of countless research that went on to produce a show like “Sesame Street” and compares it to “Blue’s Clues”, that was even better. He basically describes about why some ideas stick whereas others do not, concluding that, under the right circumstances, it is just about how you package the information, that will determine the stickiness factor, provided you will be able to discern the means of doing so. On that note, he further explains that there is only a thin line between acceptance and aversion towards a product or an idea.

As for the power of context, it is perfectly illustrated in the Bernie Goetz case, which concludes that it is the environment or the surrounding, such as graffiti on the walls and the disorder at the turnstiles rather than the psychological or the social background of Goetz and the others that played a major role in shaping them. The third rule demonstrates that you can start with small steps like the cleaning of the subway or covering the graffiti to curb bigger issues like crimes.

All in all, it was an easy read with Gladwell using a multitude of examples to set the very phenomenon of ‘tipping point’ in context. It clearly demonstrates the power of the three rules through which an epidemic is instigated. The book was a fantastic read and it definitely puts into perspective a lot of things that are overlooked with the author reducing complex ideas to simpler versions, making it easier to relate to.

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October 9th, 2019 by