The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Paperback – 7 Jan 2002
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"The best way to understand the dramatic transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life," writes Malcolm Gladwell, "is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviours spread just like viruses do." Although anyone familiar with the theory of mimetics will recognise this concept, Gladwell's The Tipping Point has quite a few interesting twists on the subject.
For example, Paul Revere was able to galvanise the forces of resistance so effectively in part because he was what Gladwell calls a "Connector": he knew just about everybody, particularly the revolutionary leaders in each of the towns that he rode through. But Revere "wasn't just the man with the biggest Rolodex in colonial Boston", he was also a "Maven" who gathered extensive information about the British. He knew what was going on and he knew exactly whom to tell. The phenomenon continues to this day--think of how often you've received information in an e-mail message that had been forwarded at least half a dozen times before reaching you.
Gladwell develops these and other concepts (such as the "stickiness" of ideas or the effect of population size on information dispersal) through simple, clear explanations and entertainingly illustrative anecdotes, such as comparing the pedagogical methods of Sesame Street and Blue's Clues, or explaining why it would be even easier to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with the actor Rod Steiger. Although some readers may find the transitional passages between chapters hold their hands a little too tightly, and Gladwell's closing invocation of the possibilities of social engineering sketchy, even chilling, The Tipping Point is one of the most effective books on science for a general audience in ages. It seems inevitable that "tipping point", like "future shock" or "chaos theory," will soon become one of those ideas that everybody knows--or at least knows by name. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Gladwell argues that many contemporary problems - from crime to teenage delinquency and traffic jams - behave like epidemics that are capable of sudden and dramatic changes in direction. Yet the right intervention at just the right time - the Tipping Point - can start a cascade of change and provide a method for developing strategies for everything from raising a child to running a company. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
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