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83 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The book that tipped
In the Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell provides an overview on the phenomenon of social epidemics, the underlying reasons that make things tip. The book is well researched with academic contributions entangled with interesting narrative that illustrates the theory. I would have rated the book five stars if not for two issues. Firstly, the book is almost totally lacks...
Published on 5 Feb 2006 by Niklas Kari

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92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Tipping Point
'The Tipping Point' is another entertaining, yet laboured book from Malcolm Gladwell. Like 'Blink' you get an interesting premise, explained very well at the beginning of the book, followed by 150 pages going over the same ground in greater depth. Once you've grasped the initial concept and had it proven with a few examples, you don't really need to go over it much...
Published on 1 May 2008 by Spider Monkey


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92 of 98 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Tipping Point, 1 May 2008
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Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Paperback)
'The Tipping Point' is another entertaining, yet laboured book from Malcolm Gladwell. Like 'Blink' you get an interesting premise, explained very well at the beginning of the book, followed by 150 pages going over the same ground in greater depth. Once you've grasped the initial concept and had it proven with a few examples, you don't really need to go over it much more. Saying that, this book is an entertaining read and has some wonderful examples to illustrate the various points. I particularly enjoyed the chapter exploring the benefits, and tipping point of, sesame street and blues clues. Other chapters though, like the one on suicide and smoking, are pretty aimless and take a long time to make a very minor, insignificant point. This book is worth a read if you liked 'Blink' and it has some interesting ideas explored in it. If you like this I'd recommend 'Predictably irrational' which has similar experiments and is more coherent and focused. In fact, I'd probably recommend that book before this one. This is a good read, but not a great read.

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83 of 89 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The book that tipped, 5 Feb 2006
By 
Niklas Kari (Helsinki) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Paperback)
In the Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell provides an overview on the phenomenon of social epidemics, the underlying reasons that make things tip. The book is well researched with academic contributions entangled with interesting narrative that illustrates the theory. I would have rated the book five stars if not for two issues. Firstly, the book is almost totally lacks critique about the theories and examples presented. Secondly, while the book contains a lot of interesting ideas, the effort to synthesize them is half-hearted.
Mr. Gladwell has a made a great effort in going through a vast literature – mainly academic, but also popular – to find a number of key factors behind the social epidemics and some interesting narrative to illustrate them. However, the book is not at all academic, rather the value of Mr. Gladwell’s writing comes from packaging academic research to simple concepts and explaining these in length through examples. For those interested in details, there are some ten pages of endnotes that explain the concepts more thoroughly and provide references to the original literature.
So what makes things tip? According to Mr. Gladwell this can be divided into three explaining categories: (1) the law of the few, (2) the stickiness factor, and (3) the power of context. The law of the few states that only a very small part of people are behind the word-of-mouth epidemics and they can be categorized into connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Connectors are persons with exceptionally large personal networks, mavens are experts on the “right” market price and on spotting bargains, and salesmen are persons with extraordinary skill to persuade. Stickiness factor refers to small “sticky” details that can greatly boost for instance the effect of advertising campaigns. Finally, the power of context states that people are powerfully affected by the surrounding circumstances in making their decisions.
The Tipping Point provides a way of interpreting what factors have contributed to a certain epidemic or trend. I would have appreciated an effort to synthesize the theory and preferably in a more normative manner, e.g. by providing a framework on how, say, advertising campaigns can be made more effective from the epidemics point of view. Now the focus is on providing somewhat miscellaneous ideas that often are unintuitive, but which have at least some evidence to support them. There would have been a more objective flavor to the book if Mr. Gladwell would have also discussed the limitations of the theory and other explaining factors. For instance, a product might be popular simply because it is superb without particular need of endorsement from connectors, mavens and salesmen; crime in New York might have dropped due to other factors than “power of context” in form of e.g. removing graffiti from the underground (such as the legalization of abortion as suggested in the Freakonomics book). Nevertheless, the Tipping Point is a thought-provoking and interesting book worth reading.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant, but not very useful, 18 Jan 2006
This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Paperback)
Gladwell clearly makes the case that big events can follow from tiny initial changes, that society has Tipping Points. He illustrates with a number of interesting examples.
But this is not actually anything new. Back in about the '70s, people got very excisted about so-called Catastrophe Theory, which modelled Tipping Points mathematically, and for a short while ther was a lot of hype about a scientific way of analysing disasters.
But that fizzled out for the same reason this will. While it shows that systems have Tipping Points, it provides no way of predicting them or recognising them when they turn up. Only when it has passed and the change has occurred can you say "That was a Tipping Point, that was". Only when the knowledge is of no more use wil you know that a Tip has occurred.
So apart from realising thet "just one more push" may have a disproportionate effect and reach a goal that hundreds of similar pushes have failed to do, you learn nothing from this book. But it is a pleasant read.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very readable and stimulating, 26 Feb 2001
By 
Mr. Stuart Robert Harris "Vivir Con Arte" (Norwalk CT 06850) - See all my reviews
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A page-turner of ideas. I'm in no position to judge the soundness of the author's claims, and I'm not about to chase up his footnotes, but I certainly found it highly readable and stimulating. I devoured it in a couple of train journeys and have recommended it to anybody who'll listen.
There are enough big basic premises to get your teeth into, but not so many as to make it indigestible. I read it in between shots at Pinker's "How the Mind Works", which feels like a much denser, more complex and more "scholarly" work. The author seems to have done a fair bit of face-to-face research to get his story, and that helps to make it feel warm and personal. Come to think of it, he even brings Paul Revere to life, so he clearly has a knack with people!
Whether or not the author originated the concepts he presents, and whether or not they stand up to academic scrutiny, they became very "sticky" in this book - to borrow one of the most intuitively apposite ideas.
If you're a heavy-duty academic or social studies professional, it may well raise more questions than it answers. But if you're the sort who likes double-feature think pieces in serious mass-circulation magazines, this is a book for you.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but where's the proof?, 27 Sep 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book and devoured it in just a few sittings. It's dealing with a fascinating topic that the writer manages to break down and simplify into just a few simple concepts (the law of the few, the power of context and stickiness). However, whilst is very insightful and references a number of articles and books, it is largely unsubstantiated. Without being too positivist about it, the ideas put forward have a common sense structure about them, but lack scientific rigour -- someone else could write a book on the same topic but come up with completely different but equally unfounded 'laws' for tipping.
I also found it bizarre that Dawkins' 'meme theory' wasn't mentioned once, even though I would have thought it particularly relevent to the idea of ideas or behaviours being 'sticky'.
Overall, this repackages old ideas into new, bitesized chunks that make for a fun read.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but trivial, 30 Oct 2005
By 
Alan Urdaibay - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Paperback)
Of course, the term 'tipping point' predates the book and we are, in the end, told very little we didn't already know. The essentials of the phenomenon are well known, even to children. Gladwell's claim that we can use the book to change outcomes in the real world is unsubstantiated and the examples he gives ultimately bear this out. In one example a footware company uses the principles he elucidates to become hugely successful. Much less is then made of that company's subsequent decline. If they have a winning idea that is of permanent utility why doesn't it continue to work? Gladwell doesn't even gloss over this - he ignores it.

Gladwell's method is thoroughly unscientific and relies on anecdotes and the supposed identification of a set of personality types that are so infrequent, it would appear, that we need to be told about them. These personality types are responsible for much of the way the world works, apparently. Anecdotes are the bane of much of American authorship nowadays and seem to be substitutes for actual knowledge about something, which needs proof. I suspect it has something to do with a culture that is steeped in religious faith (as opposed to the more sceptical European culture). Perhaps Americans are simply accustomed to hearing people make a lot of claims without expecting to provide proof. Bits and bobs of something somewhat scientific are popped in on a couple of occasions to give a little flavour, however.

It also appears that Gladwell has not heard of any alternative theories to explain outcomes - he certainly fails to take other factors into consideration - chaos theory - for example.

What Gladwell does is provide a very readable, light, entertaining book. His anecdotes are entertaining and his people satisfyingly larger than life. I enjoyed most of it although it got significantly weaker towards the end as repetition set in and the plot began to slip. In the end I can't help thinking that those who think the book is a revelation are rather naive.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for anyone in marketing or public policy, 6 Feb 2003
By 
Jack (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Paperback)
The Tipping Point is a book about epidemics – social, cultural, fashion trends as well as medical – drawing on studies from worlds of biology, psychology, anthropology, criminology, sociology and other ‘ologies’.

It is a fascinating book, easy to read and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in marketing, particularly in creating ‘buzz’, or public health or public policy generally.
It draws on a range of examples from the success of Sesame Street and Airwalk trainers through to halting the crime epidemic in New York and how smoking among teenagers should best be dealt with.
It goes into great and fascinating depth on the experiment that lead to the concept of six degrees of separation and introduces us to the Rule of 150.
I have quoted from it at such length over the last week or so that I am now banned from talking about it so am writing a review here instead.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As I sit here..., 5 Jan 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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... I found that I could not not review this book. After all, I am currently wearing Hush Puppies, and belong to a major religion that was born out of what Malcolm Gladwell might have described as a 'tipping point' thousands of years ago. In this impulse, Gladwell echoes the words of Margaret Mead, who once said 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.' This is the tipping point principle.
Gladwell's writing style is up-beat and popular - he is a staff writer for the New Yorker (a popular American periodical), and that style is clearly present in his writing here. Thus, those who appreciate the New Yorker will tend to like this book; those who don't, won't. Gladwell occasionally plays a bit loose with the documentation, and relies much more an anecdotal and consensus opinions than necessarily getting strong, documented proof. Then again, with a principle like the tipping point, this might not be the most important thing in any event - any hard, cold statistical data of the early Christian movement might have dismissed this wandering band of a dozen troublemakers as insignificant.
Some of Gladwell's conclusions are likewise problematic, again based on a more intuitive approach that will appeal to some and not to others. In particular, I would question his liberality of accepting drug use; while one might agree that the war on drugs goes in directions that are less helpful while other problems loom large, I'm not convinced (nor does Gladwell's argument seem very strong in this direction) that permitting or encouraging children this experience is the best course.
Some have begun describing the recent Hurricane Katrina disaster as a tipping point for the economy, but whether this will be a tipping point for good or bad, one cannot say. It is a sad fact of history that often disasters and wars are followed by periods of economic boom.
The term 'tipping point' actually comes from epidemiology, to describe the point at which virus and other infectious agents reach a critical mass sufficient to become an epidemic. The problem with this is that different viral and infectious agents have different tipping points given different conditions, so the idea of universally applying the concept of the tipping point becomes rather like the idea of the hundredth monkey, the idea in social consciousness construction that there is some sort of paradigm shift or mysterious shift in general thought and behaviour once it reaches a critical mass of people.
Do other people wear Hush Puppies now because I have doggedly insisted upon wearing mine since the 1970s (not the same pair, mind you)? Why did they fade out of fashion only to come back in? These are the kinds of issues that the tipping point cannot explain.
This is an interesting text, but more as an intellectual sideline rather than a serious attempt at formulating a universal principle of social behaviour.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book with an optimistic message, 3 July 2002
By 
Coert Visser "solutionfocusedchange.com" (Driebergen Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Paperback)
I found this book very interesting to read. It very practically shows how big changes in societies often happen unexpectedly and suddenly and can be caused by small events. The explanation is: if circumstances are right, ideas, behavior and products can, with the help of the right kinds of people, spread throughout a society like an epidemic. When that happens, a critical point, the tipping point, can be reached at which the behavior and features of the system itself suddenly change. This principle is clearly illustrated by stories about the sudden decrease in crime in New York in the nineties, by the sudden popularity of Hush Puppies and by several other interesting stories. This book contains many interesting ideas and facts, some of them very counter-intuitive. The author manages to make accessible some implications of chaos theory in a very easy and entertaining way for a large public. What I also like about this book is the optimistic tone and message: change is possible and it can happen non-linearly, which means that small events can lead to major changes. Fascinating book.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning How to Grow Faster from the Metaphor of Epidemics!, 12 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Tipping Point (Hardcover)
Tipping points are those places where geometric increases follow, that are temporarily unbounded by other limits. For example, when lily pads cover a little more than half of a pond, the rest of the pond's surface will soon follow. That last doubling will cause almost more surface to be covered than all of the prior growth, but will take only a fraction of the time. Although this book focuses on tipping points, it is really about systems dynamics -- how related phenomena build on each other in feedback loops (for example, how adding food to the environment for rapidly growing species expands their populations). This subject is an essential part of books like The Fifth Discipline, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, The Dance of Change, and The Soul at Work. Because the book never makes that connection to systems dynamics, most readers won't either. That's a problem because you will need the tools from these other resources and disciplines to apply this book's thesis of pushing the tipping point. Missing this connection is the book's main weakness.
For people who are interested in how to start (or stop) trends, this book is a useful encapsulation of much of the best and most provocative behavioral research in recent years. Unless you follow this subject closely (someone the author would call a Maven), you will find that much of this is new to you.
On the other hand, if you have been involved in the marketing of trendy items or stopping medical epidemics, this will seem very elementary and old hat.
I found the book to be a pleasant and quick read of how behaviors move from equilibrium into disequilibrium, caused by some factor that creates the tipping point to expand or decrease the behavior. If you are like me, I suspect you will, too.
If you want to apply these lessons, you will probably find the book's explanation of the concepts to be just a little too general for your real needs. A good related book to fill in your sense of how human behavior works is Influence by Robert Cialdini.
Essentially, the book's thesis is that trends grow by expanding the base of those who will spread the word of mouth and be listened to, aided by powerful messages that stick indelibly into the mind and an environment that psychologically encourages the trend.
The weakness of that argument is that it fails to fully address the physical needs that might be served to support the trend. Sure, psychology is important, but so is physiology. To the author's credit, the examples clearly deal with physiology (such as the smoking and children's television sections), but the book's thesis does not really do so. It is a strange omission. I think some people will be confused about what to do as a result.
Clearly, this book is about identifying what causes behavior through careful measurement. The examples are especially interesting because the common sense causes are seldom the right ones. For example, some children do not seem to pay much attention to a given educational television show while they play with toys. Actually, these children are picking up as much information from the show as those that do pay undivided attention, because no more than partial attention is needed for these viewers. This reminds me of the lessons about human behavior in the beer game example in The Fifth Discipline where role-playing beer retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers willy-nilly over order and over produce beer because of misinterpreting a temporary shortage as a permanent one, creating a long-term disaster for all concerned. The obvious is often obviously wrong.
Anyone applying these ideas needs to develop those causation-finding measurement skills. Since the book does not provide much guidance beyond examples of successfully and unsuccessfully using them, about all you can hope for is to remember to get expert help and double check the expert's conclusions with measurements.
Almost any reader will at least get a few great stories to use at the next cocktail party or dinner, assuming your companions have not yet read this book. Have fun, and enjoy more irresistible growth as a result!
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The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell (Paperback - 14 Feb 2002)
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