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82 of 87 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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91 of 97 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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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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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buy it if..., 12 Jun 2007
Too many reviews have already been written about this book so I'll keep it brief and be careful not to go over old ground. Instead I'll just try to help you work out whether or not you should buy it: 1) Buy it if you've ever had an inkling that the stuff you've read in sociology or marketing textbooks may well have been a load of cobblers. 2) Buy it if you've ever had an inkling that the stuff you've read in politics or history textbooks may well be a load of cobblers. 3) Basically, buy it if you're an inquisitive kind of person who isn't satisfied with our culture's tendency towards over simplistic narratives. This book will be a breath of fresh air to you. PS - It would get 5 stars but it starts repeating itself about 2/3s of the way through.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Positive and negative, 15 Mar 2005
I am seriously ambivalent about this book, simultaneously being very negative and quite positive...
First, the negative, deeply cynical comments...
Golly gosh some things are non-linear! Maybe the spread of ideas is non-linear! Perhaps the techniques used by people studying other non-linear phenomena, particularly those used by epidemiologists, could be applied.
Gladwell takes these hardly earth shattering observations and coins some buzzwords to describe the key concepts. The buzzwords appear to have been devised by a marketing man, containing strong, powerful words: Tipping POINT, the LAW of the few, Stickiness, POWER of context. He then builds a meandering, long-winded book about it, beating each concept to death with fluffy prose and padding the whole thing with interminable anecdotes.
On a more positive note...
I actually rather enjoyed this book, particularly the anecdotes. I stand by the substance of the negative comments above but unless that sort of thing really, really winds you up it should not overwhelm the book's positive qualities. He is hopelessly long winded (after all, he does write for the New Yorker which never uses a word when multiple paragraphs will do) but he writes well and there are some good stories.
The section on the law of the few makes some interesting points - he introduces the concepts of Mavens (people who know things), Salesmen (people who know lots of people) and Connectors (people who can convince people) and illustrates how and why they are responsible for the spread of ideas. He makes the point (repeatedly) that these people are the important factors in spreading ideas - it is the law of the few because it requires remarkably few of them. There are some good anecdotes - the resurgence of hush puppies, Airwalk trainers, Paul Revere raising the alarm that the British were coming. Although he does stretch the Paul Revere story to breaking point - he knew the right people, he other guy didn't.
The chapter on stickiness includes an interesting, if overlong, description of how Sesame Street and Blues Clues try to ensure that children remember their message (literacy). It is a little disappointing that the pursuit of stickiness has led us from a wonderful program (Sesame Street) full of wit and invention to the anodyne and dull Blue's Clues. In this case, I guess that the (good) end does justify the means; interestingly Gladwell steered clear of examples where the end is less patently good.
The chapters on context and the case studies are the most interesting. He does a particularly good job in demonstrating how very small changes in environment (context) can have a profound impact. He provides the best and most convincing explanation I have read of why New York's 'no broken windows' zero tolerance policing approach worked. The case studies of smoking (smoking isn't cool, smokers, or rather people with a strong disposition to smoke, are), Micronesian suicides and the law of 150 are very interesting.
Overall, it is worth reading (providing you are not too cynical or too familiar with the subject areas that he draws on) and it does provide a number of good conversation topics - I just wish that either he was more familiar with Occam or had a better editor.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book in itself may be described as a tipping point, 27 Sep 2007
By 
Mr P R Morgan "Peter Morgan" (BATH, Bath and N E Somerset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Why does a product suddenly become successful, whereas another does not? This is a good empirical question, and for me, one that is so original that I had not considered it hitherto. This book had been `on my reading list' for some time, having heard several recommendations for it. The ideas about what defines a `tipping point' are clearly defined and well explained, with products or examples that many can identify with.

The examples are the key. In essence, Gladwell describes a `tipping point' as the moment a good sales campaign becomes a phenomenon, and takes examples to illustrate the three salient items; it is contagious, little changes have big effects, and it is not something gradual, but extremely dynamic.

Gladwell takes these, and analyses them further, in his three laws. These concern the individuals involved, how `sticky' or contagious the idea / product is, and the context in which it is presented. Each is described in detail, with real people introduced (not `Bob' or `Sarah' but Mark Alpert and Tom Gau, being but individuals to illustrate the types of individuals).

The book is very readable, and it makes good common sense. Gradwell brings together lots of strands of research, and introduces some very appealable people. The people and situations are selective, but they had to be. They back up the basic premise of the author (no surprise there, then). But in total, the book has a roundness and totality about it.

Examples used are exclusively American, but so is Gradwell! He has also helped to bring rather dusty research into the mainstream of business life and collective consciousness. People now use the language of the research Gladwell describes to define when a product is becoming part of the mainstream of life. After the `Innovators' come, in order, `Early Adopters', the `Early Majority', the `Late Majority' and finally ` Laggards'.

The material is not new; the research in many cases was available before, and the market-place examples were there for all to see. Gladwell has distilled this into a little gem. I should have read it before. Reading it in 2007 will make a difference to the way that I see change. I may even be able to influence how change affects those in the circle around me, thinking back to the central core of `The Tipping Point'.

Peter Morgan (morganp@supanet.com)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging Thinking, 16 Sep 2013
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A good read, with some amazing stories. A few more tools and tips to apply to your own project would have improved the final rating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An explanation of how ideas spread, 21 Oct 2000
This books shows the way in which ideas spread through society, pretty similar the the way in which a virus spread in a population. This can be applied to any idea, way of behaviour, piece of information, and so on.
Gladwell writes well, and, even if you don't agree with some of his opinions, the book is interesting and worth to read through.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, 10 Jun 2003
By A Customer
I would never read this kind of book usually, but I stumbled on it and sat down to read it at 11.30 at night. Three hours later I had finished it. The other reviews tell the story of its message well enough; the book is a profound examination of what I suppose you could call the social life of information. But it really does merit five stars: original, well researched, engagingly written, thought-provoking, insightful.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hutterites and Other Noble Successes. Weak Argument., 11 Jan 2006
The hype about the book had come and gone. I knew the phrase and how it was used but it was only the recommendation of a friend that sent me to buy the book.
The hype is understandable and many of the events and situations used to make the book’s argument were intriguing, attractive and even inspiring.
But the questions began to tumble out as I ploughed through the 59 pages of the Sesame Street chapter. Could I detect a whiff of adulation about the programme rather than a solid contribution to the argument. Actually, did the book have a cohesive argument rather than just a group of anecdotal observations slung together with a few deliciously chosen descriptors (mavens, stickiness factor etc). And increasingly important, did the steady use of 'evidence' from the experiments of sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists really provide the evidence they seemed to indicate?
Take the importance of the size (150 pretty well precisely) of the ideal socialisation group. The outline of the (evolutionary) foundation for this conclusion (Robin Dunbar’s theory of the relationship between the primate neo-cortex and the size of the socialisation group!!) turned out to depend on speculation and guesswork. When I thought about it I came up with a multitude of other organisations which seem to have satisfactory or optimum socialisation limits other than the magical 150.
Indeed for the thought provoking stories about Gore and Sesame Street and the Hutterites (if you do nothing else with this book find out about the Hutterites!) I could think of other organisations which do very nicely thank you without having experienced the same tipping point factors.
OK the 'Broken Windows' account is always inspiring from whatever angle – but even there I found myself beginning to wonder if the real driver was not the small step but the rock hard determination of the implementers.
Nope! This book is over hyped, interesting and not as revealing as it promised to be. Maybe we just need to know that sometimes small things (and sometimes it is only in retrospect that we know which small things) make a big impact. Maybe in our quest for the small tipping point factor we should just keep alert and do our small things well.
Maybe I should have ignored my friend and skipped this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bigger is not always better, 11 Sep 2005
A curate's egg. The Tipping Point has a few really intriguing examples and the germ of great idea about behavioural viruses. How do ideas spread? What sparks them? Why do some take off and others go nowhere? These are questions that affect us all whether at a social and community level or in business. And Gladwell does us the great service of throwing a few ideas into the ring. I just wish he hadn't written it up as a book.
Maclolm Galdwell is a wonderful essayist. His writing in the New Yorker is must-read stuff and perhaps this is his natural habitat. The Tipping Point seems like an over-long essay. A great idea stretched to fit the new form and as a result it becomes patchy. Good in parts, not so good in others.
Worth a read? Sure. But sometimes less is so much more.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tipped, 2 July 2004
By 
L. Richardson "LR" (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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This is a provocative and smart book. It repackages all the common sense and instinct we all have and presents it wonderfully well: nothing in Gladwell's book is new but it is fascinating nonetheless. His comments and insight, and the excellent examples he uses to make his points, have been very useful to me.
I have heard people ask about this book "where is the tipping point?". It is a fair enough question and not one that Gladwell answers. He can't have set out to do so though: the tipping point is different in every instance in which it appears. He is merely explaining the factors that contribute to it. As a marketer, this is invaluable.
I wish that people were more prepared to put their trust in instinct. We are social creatures and naturally respond to stimuli all around us. Gladwell knows this and explains how we can make what we know about ourselves work very effectively in business environments.
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The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell (Audio CD - 24 Feb 2005)
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