Key Points: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

This is just a summary of Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. It was a very interesting book and I would recommend actually reading the full thing.

Key Idea #1: It is only an epidemic once the Tipping Point threshold has been crossed. 

-Tipping Point: when a trend turns into an epidemic 

-ex: the flu starts out in a few people and then spreads like wildfire

-ex 2: 1984 Sharp’s fax machine only sold 80,000 until is skyrocketed in 1987 (tipping point was so many people owning a fax machine that it pushed other people to get one) 

Key Idea #2: A certain few key people are often the cause of epidemics 

80/20 rule: 20% of people tend to influence 80% of the final outcome (20% of people do 80% of the work, 20% of criminals do 80% of the crime, 20% of beer drinkers drink 80% of the beer, the AIDS epidemic is traced back to a very small number of people at a few different bars)

Key Idea #3: Ideas spread particularly fast with Connectors, or people with a vast social network

Connectors: people who are well connected with not only a lot of people, but in many different “worlds” (like Paul Revere, he was within the loop of a lot of different groups) 

-connectors have a lot of weak ties; a vast network of different acquaintances is more valuable to them than a close network of friends 

-Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon: every actor or actress can be connected to Kevin Bacon in less than seven connections

Key Idea #4: Some people are born with the gift of persuasion and a knack for selling ideas 

-Salesmen: enthusiasm, natural charm, lots of energy, notable nonverbal communication cues, create a palpable harmony easily, establish a sense of intimacy and trust in a short amount of time 

-emotions are contagious, and Salesmen show them so clearly that others empathize with them and change their own behaviors

Key Idea #5: In every network there are Mavens who amass information and pass it on to others 

Mavens: know a lot about many different things, constantly assimilating information about new trends and specific products; they have social skills and constantly pass on their knowledge to others 

-do not have big networks but do have major influence over those in their own networks

-highly communicative and socially motivated to be helpful and pass on information to others, who will then follow their recommendations 

Key Idea #6: An idea has to stick before it can spread

-to stick, the message has to be appealing. Presentation is important. 

Ex: 1954 cigarrette brand Winston slogan “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” à improper grammar created a small sensation and a sticky message 

Ex 2: sesame street- instead of keeping fictional characters separate from real ones, they combined the two when they realized kids liked this better 

Blues Clues then went on to realize that kids like narratives, they do not like plays on words and sarcasm/jokes, and they like being able to piece things together through repetition. Hence, Blue’s Clues is a very literal show with one story line per episode, and each episode would air five times in a row before a new one came out. 

Key Idea #7: External Circumstances have a much greater influence on our behavior than we think

-ex: good Samaritan experiment, people pressed for time are much less likely to stop and help someone, even if they are a pastor who says they care deeply about helping others 

Stanford Prison Experiment

Key Idea #8: Even the smallest changes in context can determine whether an epidemic takes off

-mid 1990s NYC crime rate out of control à changed and eliminated graffiti on subway cars, fare evading because this symbolized that people could do what they wanted 

Rule of 150: only in groups of no more than 150 people can a dynamic develop that can later extend outside of the group (keep groups small) 

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