The Tipping Point: 10 Big Ideas

Updated: May 19

I believe that if you are going to pick a nonfiction book it better be a book backed by research and real-world situations. Malcolm Gladwell is someone who does this very well.

Now in this book he talks about the phenomena of tipping point or the threshold or a takeoff point, whatever you want to call it.

The question is simple.

Why some products, ideas and behaviour patterns spread like a wildfire?

The answer however is not that simple. Mr. Gladwell give us a seemingly good explanation.

Readers also get to know about the attribute of things that can be tipped. Like everytime  Malcolm leaves the conversation open ended by saying that there is a difficulty and volatility in the world of the tipping point as well as a large measure of hopefulness.

Now let’s just move to the 10 big ideas from the tipping point.

#1 There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics.

Connectors, mavens and salesman are the three types of people who are responsible for starting word of mouth academics. This is Law of the few.

A connector is someone who knows a lot of and all kinds of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.

Mavens are as important as connectors. They are obsessed with the accumulation of knowledge. They collect information and it gives them satisfaction like no other thing can give. The other interesting fact about them is that they not only like to collect information but they also like to tell everybody about that.

The last archetype is the salesman and the thing about salesmen is that they get you hooked on products, services or even ideas. Common people like them. And planting the seed of ideas in minds of others is a piece of cake for them. Now if you are interested in starting a word of mouth academic focus on these three. No one else matters.

#2 Emotions are contagious.

We imitate each others emotions as a way of expressing support, care and most importantly as a means of communication.

Now there is a catch. Some of us are far more emotionally contagious then the rest of us. Such people are known as senders. On the other hand some specially susceptible, we know them as carriers.

Senders are charismatic persons they can infect others with their emotions but it’s not the other way around. This is a trait of the salesmen group and it explains the mechanism to some extent.

#3 In epidermic‘s messenger matters but the content of the message matters too.

Now that we know the qualities of the messenger in a social epidermic let’s go through the message as well. It can be a product, behavior pattern for an idea. And what makes it unique is the stickiness factor the message should be personal, practical and actionable. So that it can become memorable. 

#4 Clutter makes it harder to get any message to stick.

This is the age of information and we have a lot of information at our disposal. This overflow of information has created a stickiness problem. Author later talks about the simple ways to enhance the stickiness. Something done accurately by the children's educational TV shows Sesame Street and Blue's clues. A whole chapter is based on these two TV shows plus it’s fun to read and provides the reader with a lot of good insights.

#5 Ideas have to be memorable and moves us to action.

This is an extension of the point we discussed earlier. The TV shows that are discussed heavily as examples in this book did these two things very well.

When Sesame Street’s character would ask a question you would hear kids answer out loud. Because it asks the question in the same way every time making it memorable and the answer is the action.

#6 Packaging information in a right way under the right circumstances can make it irresistible.

A small tweak in the presentation could make all the difference in the world.

In all the cases that are discussed in the chapter the stickiness factor, no one substantially altered the content or what they were saying. They just tipped the message by tinkering on the margin. There’s a way to do this. All you have to do is to find it. Just like you have to find those exceptional people capable of starting word of mouth epidemics.

#7 The environment change the way people look at things.

A broken window has nothing to do with crime but when you read the 'Broken Window theory' you understand that petty things like a broken window or graffiti can invite a crime as crime is an inevitable result of disorder.

A $30 pair of hush puppies that used to sold in Ma and Pa stores can go from there to a handful of downtown Manhattan hipsters to every mall in America. Only because the people see it in a different light, in a new light.  Environment plays a big role in tipping something up.

#8 If you are In a rat hole you would act like a rat.

The environment can spread a social epidemic. People living in hostile ghettos would act like criminals. More war lords would emerge from war zones.

Bernhard Goetz who changed the crime scene in New York in 1980s by shooting four young black males in the subway acted like a rat, viciously and savagely.

Bernhard Goetz, Focus of his father’s rage in childhood, punching bag in school, beaten by muggers several times, was living in a rat hole and soon he became one. But I believe that the opposite is also possible.

#9 If you want to make it big, first make it small.

Most of human ever louche and to place before the advent of agriculture when lived in small groups on a face-to-face basis. As a result human brain has evolved as an adaptive mechanism to conditions that have largely cease to exist. Men evolved to feel strongly about few people, short distances, and brief intervals of time; and these are still the dimensions of life that are important to him. 

We have a natural limit or social channel capacity, 147.8 or roughly 150 is the maximum Number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and who they relate to us. 

#10 The world does not accord with our intuition.

Malcolm Gladwell says that those who are successful at creating social epidemics do not just do what they think is right. They deliberately test their intuitions.

Human communication has its own set of very unusual and counterintuitive rules. And sometimes evidence contradicts with common beliefs. This world is volatile and we should always be looking for new ways, so that we can shape the course of social academics.


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