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Book Review: "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference

by Malcolm Gladwell

After listening to this book twice, I am beginning to appreciate how seemingly miniscule things often change the outcome in many situations. We tend to focus on the “big” things and wonder why something didn’t quite turn out as expected. Why do some products make it big, while others that are equally good or even better don’t? Why are some TV shows more successful than others? Why are some able to mobilize masses and others not?

Malcolm Gladwell builds his theory with examples and some terms that he defines. TV shows that are popular with kids need to have that stickiness factor that makes kids want to watch them again and again. It is the same stickiness that leads to addictions such as smoking.

Then there are people who just seem to know everyone, and these are the connectors. They bring people together. They are the pyramids of social networks. They can influence a large number of people with a new idea.

And there are the mavens, the quintessential experts, who seem to know every trick in the book: the best hotels to stay in, the best car deals and when to buy, and the best TV on sale. They want to help everyone with what they know; everyone looks up to them.

When you have an idea or a trend aided by some factors that make it sticky, and backed by the right mix of mavens and connectors, the scale tips in its favor, and it becomes a social epidemic. How did Hush Puppies become a super brand of shoes? Why did a single incident of suicide in Micronesia lead to a wave of suicides over the years? What does the Columbine High School shooting have in it that led to so many similar attempts in other schools?

It is a longish book with a lot of interesting concepts and examples. It takes a couple of readings to fully appreciate the connection between different aspects of human behavior that make some things tip. I am writing this review just as I completed my second listening, and I am still pondering over all the concepts; I will probably come back and rewrite some of this as I begin to notice how these things tip day-to-day things one way or the other.

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