Monday, August 14, 2006

Tipping Point

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell
How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

The Tipping Point is the name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once.

Three factors are needed for a tipping point to occur:
1 - it needs to involve contagious behavior, such as disease/illness, fashion, crime/violence, or word of mouth.
2 - little changes must be capable of having a large effect, and are typically spread by mavens and connectors.
3 - the changes have to happen in a hurry; we're rarely surprised when things change slowly over time.

Separately, there are three rules of the Tipping Point:
1 - the Law of the Few, as it only takes a few exceptional people to start an epidemic.
2 - the Stickiness Factor, in that if you craft your message properly it can have much greater impact and become memorable.
3 - the Power of Context, based on the theory that humans are much more sensitive to the current environment than they might appear to be.

He uses quite a few examples of tipping points, some of them have positive impact and others are negative. Some examples include:
* a huge reduction in street crime in New York City
* a huge increase in suicide among teen boys in Micronesia
* how a few hip teens brought back Hush Puppies shoes from the kennel of darkness
* how Paul Revere was successful in alerting his countrymen while another midnight rider was totally ineffective
* how ABC News anchor Peter Jennings smiled enough to enable Reagan to defeat Mondale
* how little quirky things in advertisements mean the difference between success and failure
* programming changes that allowed Sesame Street to become a success and also Blue's Clues many years later
* the circumstances that led to Bernhard Goetz gunning down four youths on a NYC subway traincar
* why 150 is a magical number in many situations

If any of that is interesting to you then you'll probably enjoy this book. I did. Although written in a different style, I find this very similar to Freakonomics which was also an entertaining read.

No comments: