The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Differenceby Published 07 Jan 2002
|The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.pdf|
|Publisher||Back Bay Books|
An alternate cover edition exist here.
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.
Gladwell introduces us to the particular personality types who are natural pollinators of new ideas and trends, the people who create the phenomenon of word of mouth. He analyzes fashion trends, smoking, children's television, direct mail, and the early days of the American Revolution for clues about making ideas infectious, and visits a religious commune, a successful high-tech company, and one of the world's greatest salesmen to show how to start and sustain social epidemics.
"The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" Reviews
This book is fascinating and I was disappointed to read that many other readers didn't think so. So here's my response.
I think those readers are approaching this book the wrong the way when they critisize Gladwell for his inability to prove his points thoroughly. Sure, Gladwell could have dotted every i and crossed every t and shown every counter-example to the theories he's proposing. There's a word for the books that accomplish that: BORING. Gladwell is a storyteller and he knows how to keep the reader involved. By going into too much detail, he would lose his audience. Hopefully the reader who isn't convinced entirely can go into further detail by reading Gladwell's sources which are exhaustively referenced in the back of the book.
Another criticism is that Gladwell doesn't come to a specific point or that his points are hazy (this was probably more true with "Blink"). I almost want to say "who cares?" This book and "Blink" are veritable digests of the latest advances in psychology and sociology. So what if the overarching idea of the book is loose? You have now understood countless fascinating anecdotes which you can reconstruct in your own way. It is Gladwell's loose structure that allows him to connect these disparate dots in a story that you can digest, and despite the accusations that he is not precise about his overall thesis, the individual incidents are very well explained.
I love knowing the differences between Sesame Street and Blue's Clues and the differences between an adult's and a child's cognitive capabilities. Would I have read an entire book devoted solely to that? Probably not, but I was happy to read a chapter devoted to it, and a very well-written one at that.
Perhaps I approach non-fiction in a different way than most--and I will admit that I'm fascinated by almost any new, dramatically different idea about any subject, regardless of whether or not I believe it to be true--but I think that people who go into this book seeking a different way of thinking about the world around us, macro & microcosmically, will enjoy themselves. Those who go into the book seeking to be convinced beyond doubt that that way of thinking is the correct way, will not.
This book grew out of an article Malcolm Gladwell was writing for the New Yorker. Frankly, it is better suited for a 5-7 page article rather than a 280 page book. The crux of the book is that the "stickiness factor" of epidemics (whatever the nature) begins with a tipping point. This tipping point arises because of three distinct sets of individuals: mavens, connectors and salespeople. He also examines the well-known S-curve which begins with innovators, then early adopters, followed by the early majority and finally, the late majority. He is overwhelmingly redundant in expressing his ideas, providing examples of epidemics throughout the text while comparing them to one another (children's television, Hushpuppy shoes, Paul Revere's ride, nicotine, and the list goes on and on...). The Conclusion, the eighth and final chapter, was pointless: if the reader did not understand Gladwell's point by now, he or she must have been as lost as Washington Redskins' new coach Jim Zorn when he commented his family was proud to wear maroon and black.
All that said, the book was not horrible. It was a well written first person narrative and the lessons of the emergence of epidemics are applicable to almost any career or lifestyle, as Gladwell demonstrated with his countless examples.
Can I give this zero stars?
When I read this book, back in 2006, I got really mad and wrote a scathing review of it on Amazon.com. Here it is:
"I've been duped!, June 20, 2006
By Sarah (California, USA) - See all my reviews
This book sucks. Don't waste your hard earned money on it. Let me save you a few bucks here: Malcolm Gladwell is either a self-aggrandizing ass who is too busy thinking he is the god of marketing to notice that a great majority of his arguments lack any kind of cohesion or credibility whatsoever, or he is just so excited about his self-proclaimed 'paradigmatic' keys to the essense of social epidemics that he conveniently forgets to include that much needed credible evidence to support his long-winded theories, resulting in a book fit to satiate the appetite of audiences hungry for pop pseudo-science BS that will make them feel smart for reading it. Basically all this book is is a compilation of anecdotal evidence that is supposed to prove the truth in his words. Gladwell's arguments clearly violate some very important rules guiding intelligent thought: correlation does not imply causation (and the fact that two events happened on one occasion at the same time does not necessarily imply correlation), and the idea that a theory is bankable because one instance of anecdotal evidence exists. Umm, okay, that's like saying that I know a guy who won the lottery (I don't, but humor me), so it must be a logically good place to invest my paychecks (I don't have paychecks, but, please, humor me). I mean, I'm a 21-year-old college student, and not even a GOOD college student at that, and I could easily point out the flaws in his arguments -not just a single argument, but ALL of his arguments -as soon as I read them. I didn't even have to put the book down to think for a few minutes before I realized how absolutely pointless and downright ludicrous his 'insights' were. All that aside, his writing style is so patronizing and self-congratulatory that I could hardly stand to read any more than five pages at a time before my face got all scrunched up and I started uncontrollably muttering curse words under my breath. It makes me sad that people read this book and consider it a revelation in modern psychological and scientific thinking, not seeing it for what it is: an apparently very successful (thanks, readers of America) profit-driven waste of time. Gladwell made a ton of money off what probably only took him, like, 15 minutes to write, and THAT is the only thing genius about this book."
Yeah, I was kinda mad when I wrote that. This book doesn't really do much in the way of illustrating how to market ideas -rather, it seems more like a marketing tool itself. Gladwell sure knows how to create a brand for himself, complete with a legion of raving followers who can't think for themselves. That scares me.
Really good book. It read like a bestseller (quick read), but had a lot of substance to stop and make you think.
three Rules of the tipping point: the law of the few, the stickyness factor, the power of context.
Law of the Few (people who influence):
- Connectors: super connectors (eg Paul Revere). William Dawes had the same mission as Paul Revere the same night but we haven't heard of him b/c Paul Revere was a super-connector & knew who to rouse.
- Mavens: A Maven is a person who has information on a lot of different products or prices or places. This person likes to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests. They like to be helpers in the marketplace.
- Salesmen: people with the skills of persuasion. Good at reading people entering into "conversational harmony" with them. Facial gestures (nods, smiles, frowns) are key indicators. Emotional Mimicry. Studies showed Peter Jennings viewers voted Republican b/c he unconsciously smiled more while covering Reagan.
- Sesame street succeeded b/c it learned to make TV sticky. It did a TON of testing with focus groups of kids to increase stickyness (how much kids remembered) of each show. They would cut scenes that didn't hold attention until each show
- Blues Clues did even more testing and discovered that kids love repetition - it plays the same show 5 times in a row and kids love it.
- make the message personal to make it memorable
The Power of Context
- Broken window theory. NYC cleaned up its crime epidemic by cleaning off the graffiti from its subways.
- Often to change human behavior you have to change the context the problem is presented in.
- Stanford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo proved that context matters.
- law of 150: a person can't 'know' more than 150 people, so companies usually start to fail at that point. Gore-Tex breaks up a company into 2 once it hits 150, because they've found things work better that way.
How the flying fuck did this piece of shit ever get published? How on God's green earth did this thing become a bestseller?
Yes, I'm the last person in America to read The Tipping Point, and I'm glad I waited. Now that all the hype has burned off, it's easy to see this book for what it is: a very well crafted collection of half-truths and speculation, sold as "truth".
Let's look at one example. I read The Tipping Point as an ebook, so my pages might not match completely with yours, but it's the story about the AIDS virus, Chapter One, Section 2, page 24. In writing about a weird epidemic among newborns in the 1950s, Gladwell says of the lead scientist, "Goudsmit thinks that this was an early HIV epidemic."
Nothing wrong with that. Gladwell is reporting what a scientist thinks. Gladwell then offers an extended quote from Dr. Goudsmit, which is loaded with conditional statements: "this adult could have died of AIDS", "he could have transmitted the virus", "she could have given birth to an HIV infected child", "unsterilized needles could have spread the virus".
Again, all well and good: Goudsmit was speculating, and making it clear that what he was saying was not certain, but that it "could have" happened.
Then Gladwell returns and destroys the careful foundation he had built by making concrete statements about things that a moment before were only hypotheses: "They defeated HIV", "The strains of HIV circulating in the 1950s were a lot different from the HIV circulating today", "HIV itself changed" None of this is proven by any of the information Gladwell gave us. All of it is speculation. But Gladwell draws firm conclusions from things that are, at best, educated guesses. I'm sorry but that's just wrong.
Actually, I'm not sorry. What Gladwell did is so wrong it's unforgivable.
I've been a journalist for 20 years, and I work with some of the finest fact checkers in the world. If I ever handed in a badly reasoned piece of shit like this book, they'd tear me a new asshole. (No they wouldn't. They're very nice people. But they would tear the manuscript a new asshole, as they should.) More to the point, I have enough respect for myself, my readers, and my fact checkers that I'd never hand in something like this in the first place. That Gladwell thought he could get away with it (and let's face it, he did get away with it) is metaphorically criminal. Fuck him.