How to Tip the World: “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell

“The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, similar to his other bestsellers (which I highly recommend), doesn’t disappoint. Written in his signature style, with multiple real-life stories and examples, it’s quite the delightful and easy read.

The book’s main idea revolves around the notion of “epidemics” — i.e. tracing the evolution of how they start and spread. More specifically, what makes certain things—be it fashion, a book, or a TV show— become ultra-popular, while others can never hit the mainstream? What makes the difference?

Simply put–as Malcolm Gladwell puts it–what makes an idea “stick”?

There are three so-called “rules of epidemics” —The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor and the Power of Context. All these elements, when taken together, cam make anyone or anything— from an individual to a company to a new fad to even crime– to tip. That is, to reach its boiling point, the place where things start to gain traction, change, escalate and snowball in demand and recognition.

The Law of the Few—In order to make anything popular, one needs to befriend two kinds of people: Connectors, and Mavens. Connectors are those who know lots of other people. They are extroverted, outgoing and can start a conversation with anyone, anywhere. It is a special skill really. Their significance is in telling all their acquaintances about us, our idea, a trend, or what-have-you. Simply put, they can spread the word to their network and start the ball rolling.

Mavens, on the other hand, are individuals who have knowledge. They know where someone can find the best deals, for instance, and how much anything is worth paying. Such people can make a great case for why we should always take their advice and we usually end up doing it– because they have knowledge and information–two of the greatest powers in the world.

Both connectors and mavens are equally important–they have tremendous influence over starting an “epidemic.” In other words–they can tip other people’s opinions and make things happen.

The Stickiness Factor—this is another requisite for tipping. It’s the way a message is presented that makes it stand out and tip overnight. Certain experiences and things become so powerful and memorable due to the message they carry, that we can’t let them go. They simply stick with us.

The Power of Context— every epidemic spreads because it, obviously, becomes contagious. People pick it up from others and so it carries on. This premise is equally valid to crime rates, suicides, teen smoking, books or any other tangible or intangible thing which has a potential to “infect” others quickly.

I found one of the most fascinating ideas of the book to be the “Rule of 150.” The rule is based on the “human channel capacity”—that is, the limitation of our brains to remember only limited information. 150 is the number of people we can have a social relationship with, by knowing who they are and how we are related. Above that number, we tend to forget who’s who.

The rule is quite powerful and is proven by many studies. It even traces back to some of ancient colonies inhibiting Europe and North America —once these groups reached 150, they split.

It is the best way to keep people from becoming strangers to one another.

In the end, the concept of the tipping points is very straight-forward: it helps explain how what starts out as a small thing or ideas becomes great. That is—how a kitten can become a lion.

It can explain many idiosyncrasies, Malcolm Gladwell tells us, such as the Hush Puppies, Sesame Street, suicides, the spread of deadly viruses and violent crimes, such as the epidemic of shootings at high schools.

But it is mostly about how anyone, anywhere can change the world. All we need is knowing the right people, craft the right message and find an unique way to make it stick. It is that simple. Really.

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