The Tipping Point

 | October 29, 2009 9:00 PM

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceMy pastor suggested I read The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell to help me learn about how I can create movements.  Malcolm Gladwell also wrote Outliers: The Story of Success.

Gladwell’s basic premise is that movements or epidemics, like physical plagues, happen because of the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor and the Power of Context.

The Law of the Few says certain people play key roles, that these few people are responsible for the epidemic.

The Law of the Few … says that one critical factor in epidemics is the nature of the messenger.  A pair of shoes or a warning or an infection or a new movie can become highly contagious and tip simply by being associated with a  particular kind of person.

AIDS was brought to North America by a Canadian airline steward who slept with hundreds of women, playing the role of the infector and spreader.

Paul Revere's ridePaul Revere started a movement, the beginning of the U.S. revolution, with his famous ride.  What is interesting is that someone else made a similar ride and no one reacted.  That was because Paul Revere knew so many people and had so many connections.  He was a connector.  Connectors are comfortable with having many “weak friendships” or acquaintances.  In some ways these weak friendships are very powerful because those are the ones that reach out of your circle and connect you to opportunities and other people.

A movement also requires mavens, people who gather enormous amounts of data about certain topics.  But mavens aren’t just a large repository of information, mavens enjoy helping and educating others.  They want to pass on their information.

Peter Jennings (1938-2005) and Religion - Religion FactsAnd finally there are salesmen which are pretty self-explanatory.  Salesmen persuade and not just through words but through body language and expressions.  For example Peter Jennings, through his expressions, somehow convinced his viewers to vote for Reagan.  ABC News viewers voted overwhelmingly for Reagan even though ABC News itself was rated as the most anti-Republican in terms of its content.  Peter Jennings denied all of this.

I think pastors are salesmen, they sell Jesus.  Eugene Cho is both a salesman and a connector, he has had over a million views on his blog and his One Day’s Wages Facebook fan page has already almost a million fans.

Blue's Clues | Nick Jr.The Stickiness Factor is simply making your message stick.  Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues were case studies.  I prefer Blue’s Clues.

What also is involved in a movement is context.  People are incredibly swayed by context.  An infamous example was the murder of a woman in New York city that was witnessed by tens of people.  No one moved because they assumed someone else was helping.  The context froze them.  However if they had been say somewhere where only one person was a witness and that person thought no one could help, he more likely would have helped.

I am reminded of two strange movements that happened at my old church.  One was the movement for younger men to marry older women.  It started with a couple of incidents and people found it intriguing.  But after awhile it became the norm and I have never seen something like that happen again.  I think the context really affected people.

Another example was how everyone at my church quickly got on Xanga and just as quickly everyone got off.  I understood somewhat why it happened quickly but never understood why it happened so quickly in the other.

File:Pruitt-Igoe-vandalized-windows.jpgA more famous example was the incredible decline in crime that happened in New York City simply by changing the context the people were in, i.e. no broken windows, no small crime, no graffiti on subways, etc.

I am writing this review from memory and I hope I didn’t completely mess up what Gladwell was saying.  My lesson learned is that I am a maven gathering a lot of data about North Korean human rights and I need to find connectors and salesmen to get the word out.

6 Responses to “The Tipping Point”

Mark R. wrote a comment on October 29, 2009

yup, accurate summary. i read blink and outliers also, but liked tipping point best.

eyeman wrote a comment on October 30, 2009

You are a salesman for fantasy sports.

eyeman wrote a comment on October 30, 2009

…at least to me. I guess you’re a maven in this area also.

seonghuhn wrote a comment on October 30, 2009

eyeman, if I were a salesman you would have started fantasy sports many years ago. 🙂

ckham wrote a comment on October 30, 2009

I read most of the book. You did a good job with the summary! I think that people got off of xanga quickly because of the competing connectors and salesmen (i.e. facebook still new but coming of age). What’s interesting is that facebook is a much bigger movement than friendster or xanga – even twitter hasn’t dominated. I wonder what Maxwell says about sustaining movements…. I never finished the book but did he address tipping off points?

seonghuhn wrote a comment on October 30, 2009

Maxwell didn’t mention, as far as I can remember, how to sustain movements. For example he doesn’t talk about why the Hush Puppies phenomenon stopped. That would be an interesting topic.

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