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Customer Review

641 of 684 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings 'Sticky' Ideas to a Nexus, March 22, 2000
This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Hardcover)
I read this book in part of one day - it's a good, quick read. Unlike some of the people who didn't care for the book - I never read the New Yorker article. It may be that the book doesn't add enough new info to excite folks who have read that article. But to me the book threw out a good number of new ideas and concepts very quickly and very clearly. I found his ability to draw a nexus between things that, on the surface seem very divergent, was very interesting, and he did it smoothly, without jumping around a lot.
The thrust of the book is that there are three things that can converge to bring about dramatic and perhaps unexpectedly fast changes in our society. These are the context (the situational environment - especially when it's near the balance or 'tipping point'), the idea, and the people involved. His point is that very small changes in any or several of the context, the quality of the idea (which he calls 'stickiness', ie how well the idea sticks), or whether the idea reaches a very small group of key people can trigger a dramatic epidemic of change in society.
"In a given process or system some people matter more than others." (p.19). "The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts." (p.33).
He divides these gifted people into three categories: Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. "Sprinkled among every walk of life ... are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors." (p. 41). "I always keep up with people." (p. 44 quoting a "Connector"). "in the case of Connectors, their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy." (p.49). "The point about Connectors is that by having a foot in so many different worlds they have the effect of bringing them all together." (p.51).
"The word Maven comes from the Yiddish, and it means one who accumulates knowledge." (p. 60). "The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone's attention." (p.67). "The one thing that a Maven is not is a persuader. To be a Maven is to be a teacher. But it is also, even more emphatically to be a student." (p.69).
"There is also a select group of people -- Salesmen -- with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing." (p. 70). He goes on to describe an individual named Tom Gau who is a Salesman. "He seems to have some indefinable trait, something powerful and contagious and irresistible that goes beyond what comes out of his mouth, that makes people who meet him want to agree with him. It's energy. It's enthusiasm. It's charm. It's likability. It's all those things and yet something more." (p. 73).
He then goes into the importance of actually gathering empirical data about ideas, and not just relying on theory or assumption to determine quality, or as he calls it, 'stickiness.' He gives examples of where assumptions have been debunked with data. "Kids don't watch when they are stimulated and look away when they are bored. They watch when they understand and look away when they are confused." (p.102). "Children actually don't like commercials as much as we thought they did." (p. 118) "The driving force for a preschooler is not a search for novelty, like it is with older kids, it's a search for understanding and predictability." (p. 126) Hence why your three year old can watch those Barney videos over and over until the tape breaks - it becomes predictable after the third or fourth viewing. This is probably also why Barney suddenly falls out of favor when predictability is less important than novelty.
Finally, there's a point he makes he calls the rule of 150. He starts with some British anthropologists idea that brain size, neocortex size actually, is related to the ability to handle the complexities of social groups. The larger the neocortex, the larger the social group that can be managed. She then charts primate neocortex size against known average social group sizes for various primates, other than humans. Then she plugs human neocortex size into the equation, and out pops 147.8, or about 150. Now that would be not so interesting, except that he goes on to talk about this religious group, the Hutterites. They are clannish like the Amish or Mennonites, and they have a rule that when a colony approaches 150, they split into two and start a new one. He follows that by noting that Military organizations generally split companies at 150-200. And then he talks about Gore - the company that makes Goretex, among other things. They have a ~150 employee per plant rule.
"At a bigger size you have to impose complicated hierarchies and rules and regulations and formal measures to try to command loyalty and cohesion. But below is possible to achieve the same goals infomally." (p.180)
"When things get larger than that, people become strangers to one another." (p.181)
"Crossing the 150 line is a small change that can make a big difference." (p. 183)
On the whole, I thought the book sparked thought and converstaion, and will make me look at life and business a little differently. To me that's a good book.
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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 20, 2008 6:09:42 AM PST
Grandpa says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2009 10:22:46 AM PST
Lin Clark says:
On the contrary, thank you for encapsulating the text so beautifully. With so many books out there it's very helpful to have an understanding of the scope of the work. With such thoughtful analysis it is easier to apply the learning one hopes to achieve by investing time in the reading of this or any other business book.

Posted on Jan 21, 2009 6:26:58 AM PST
This helps explain why large corporations become humorless bureaucracies.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2009 2:55:59 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Apr 27, 2009 12:43:26 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 5, 2009 4:48:16 PM PDT
shoop says:
Great review! I am now thoroughly convinced that I should read this book. :)

Posted on Feb 9, 2010 1:27:11 PM PST
M. Mishra says:
Must admit, great review John! With such a comprehensive and elaborate perspective on the book contents, am sure it will be a great reading, starting and ending with 'knowing what you are getting and have got into!'
So where shall I put you: Maven or Salesmen?

Posted on Jan 1, 2011 8:30:20 PM PST
Well said! "... the book sparked thought and converstaion ..."

Excellent review!

- author Sam

Posted on Jun 23, 2011 10:09:17 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 23, 2011 10:10:05 AM PDT
Geoff Talbot says:
This a great review of this book. Many people in Hollywood, like myself recommend this book to creative people. It is bound to get your creativity flowing.

Geoff Talbot

Posted on Jan 5, 2012 4:01:36 PM PST
Pirate says:
I recently completed this book and felt compelled to take notes on it. The 3 steps to moving something to the "tipping point" whether an argument, advertising campaign, etc were, to my eyes at least, very convincing and made a lot of sense. How could 100 or less hipsters in the Manhattan's East Village save Hush Puppies from oblivion, why Paul Revere's warning worked and the other rider's warning did not, etc were extremely compelling examples of Gladwell's premise. This is a must read book for anyone in sales, marketing, politics, business, teaching, etc the underlying thesis will work for everyone.

Posted on Aug 29, 2012 1:42:23 PM PDT
YY says:
Great and thorough summary, thanks!!
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