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The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Paperback – January 7, 2002
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"The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life," writes Malcolm Gladwell, "is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do." Although anyone familiar with the theory of memetics will recognize this concept, Gladwell's The Tipping Point has quite a few interesting twists on the subject.
For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanize the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a "Connector": he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere "wasn't just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston," he was also a "Maven" who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. The phenomenon continues to this day--think of how often you've received information in an e-mail message that had been forwarded at least half a dozen times before reaching you.
Gladwell develops these and other concepts (such as the "stickiness" of ideas or the effect of population size on information dispersal) through simple, clear explanations and entertainingly illustrative anecdotes, such as comparing the pedagogical methods of Sesame Street and Blue's Clues, or explaining why it would be even easier to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with the actor Rod Steiger. Although some readers may find the transitional passages between chapters hold their hands a little too tightly, and Gladwell's closing invocation of the possibilities of social engineering sketchy, even chilling, The Tipping Point is one of the most effective books on science for a general audience in ages. It seems inevitable that "tipping point," like "future shock" or "chaos theory," will soon become one of those ideas that everybody knows--or at least knows by name. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The premise of this facile piece of pop sociology has built-in appeal: little changes can have big effects; when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or "tipping point" is reached, changing the world. Gladwell's thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors "spread just like viruses do" remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of "word-of-mouth epidemics" triggered with the help of three pivotal types. These are Connectors, sociable personalities who bring people together; Mavens, who like to pass along knowledge; and Salesmen, adept at persuading the unenlightened. (Paul Revere, for example, was a Maven and a Connector). Gladwell's applications of his "tipping point" concept to current phenomena--such as the drop in violent crime in New York, the rebirth of Hush Puppies suede shoes as a suburban mall favorite, teenage suicide patterns and the efficiency of small work units--may arouse controversy. For example, many parents may be alarmed at his advice on drugs: since teenagers' experimentation with drugs, including cocaine, seldom leads to hardcore use, he contends, "We have to stop fighting this kind of experimentation. We have to accept it and even embrace it." While it offers a smorgasbord of intriguing snippets summarizing research on topics such as conversational patterns, infants' crib talk, judging other people's character, cheating habits in schoolchildren, memory sharing among families or couples, and the dehumanizing effects of prisons, this volume betrays its roots as a series of articles for the New Yorker, where Gladwell is a staff writer: his trendy material feels bloated and insubstantial in book form. Agent, Tina Bennett of Janklow & Nesbit. Major ad/promo. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Gladwell is adept at explaining the academic research that led to such popular ideas as “six degrees of separation” and relating such social science experimentation to his overall theme of how change happens. He goes deeply into the discoveries about learning that led to the success of “Sesame Street” and “Blue’s Clues”—these shows’ producers used the idea of “stickiness” to instill basic principles and values in pre-schoolers. The “broken windows” theory of policing gets a thorough explainer, including a side trip into how do-gooding seminarians can allow themselves to avoid being good Samaritans. Advertising is one of the great accelerators of trends, and Gladwell marshals a few Madison Ave. case studies to show how commercials tip us into parting with our hard-earned cash.
Absolutely painless learning is what Gladwell offers, with a side benefit of greater self-awareness.
Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point presents the idea of fads as the main area of discussion with eight chapters, each of which displays specific qualities and examples that make fads so intriguing. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell stresses that no matter how absurd a new idea may seem, people are, for the most part, unpredictable in situations in which everyone else is involved in a new idea. Fads, to Gladwell, are not really fads at all. On the contrary, he argues they are “one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once.” A common phrase to represent this phenomenon is “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The Tipping Point is more or less a “biography of an idea” that is centralized around change. The three main characteristics of change are said to be
• Rippling effect - little changes can have big effects in the future
• Epidemic - that one moment when change occurs, because change is not gradual.
Yawning, a very general example by Gladwell, clearly displays his own three reagents of change: Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. A simple yawn is a universally recognized thing, it is “sticky” enough to be spread among recipients, and every context or situation more or less allows for it.
Some examples specifically related to marketing, however, may not be so obvious. Specifically, for a few advertising slogans to become popular, even if only for s short time, three main people can be responsible: a connector, a maven, and a salesman. A marketing slogan, or “epidemic”, is not spread by large numbers of people. However, advertising slogans stimulate sales and spread the word, even only if by subconscious awareness.
We all know that little effort, if used efficiently and put in the right places, can go a long way. To illustrate this, in his conclusion, Gladwell talks about a nurse who tries to get women to partake in diabetes and breast cancer testing who would otherwise not do so. She started off small by holding seminars at a local church, and she soon realized most of the women were knowledgeable already. So, she decided to put some of her efforts elsewhere because she did not want to preach. By applying principles consistent with Gladwell’s model of creating a tipping point, the nurse switched the location to a beauty salon. She trained the stylists and had handouts available; this specific woman achieved her goal of having the tests readily available by refining her techniques. This woman’s idea turned out to be a tipping point. This example proves that individuals have the power to make big differences with little investment, thus rehashing all of Gladwell’s models.
Anyone who has ever jumped on a bandwagon or who possesses interest in marketing, specifically the psychological aspect, may seek a personal interest in Gladwell’s work. However, everyone should find Gladwell’s work to prove helpful. The world around us is not in fact a still or slowly-moving place. With the slightest force, everything can be “tipped” with little effort.
Now, for an average reader, all this may seem very intriguing. And yes, it is. But the book drags on far too long, with the basic concepts listed dressed up in a lot of science. Some of the science also proves to be irrelevant to the main point of the book. Specifically, when Gladwell mentions that 150 is the ideal size of a human group, because 1 to 150 happens to be the ratio of the size of our neocortex to the size of our brain as a whole, he is simply showing off.
No one can doubt Malcolm Gladwell’s intelligence; he is clearly a distinguished writer. He should just tread lightly when trying to elaborate on something that, frankly put, does not need elaboration.
Every single specific example used in the text is true and is consistent with online databases. Gladwell even dug up case studies involving one hundred children to conclude that “kids don’t watch when they are stimulated and look away when they are bored.” Again, Gladwell seems to favor fact and science in this book over analysis and marketing.
Ultimately, Gladwell’s model about creating an epidemic from a newly introduced item proves to be a true reality. A connector, maven, and salesperson must be present, and his three criteria are essential for the hype that will cause a bandwagon effect. Gladwell’s perspectives may very well change the way people view social trends that would otherwise remain unquestioned.