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'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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VINE VOICEon 5 February 2006
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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on 18 January 2006
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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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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on 30 October 2005
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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on 8 October 2008
The book is about the "tipping point", that is, that moment when an idea or social behaviour has reached a level where it "tips" and spreads like crazy.

The book makes sense about how these things happen by using three rules- The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. Taking three rules, then, the book uses them to explain seemingly puzzling epidemic situations in society such as teen smoking or bestsellers.

Fun and interesting, if this kind of topic appeals to you, you'll like the book- its well written and an easy read. Other books that might appeal to general interest readers include The Sixty-Second Motivator.
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on 16 May 2013
Gladwell's Tipping Point is an incredibly boring book and reading it for me was like a penance. After I got through the first 90 pages I realized that the book was never going to come to life, in fact it's content deteriorated as the book progressed. Gladwell has the ability to write about the inside of a ping pong ball for very extended periods of time. The subject matter is simple and Gladwell treats it with repetitive academic zeal, repeating the same base statistics over and over and over again. As an example of the unparalleled ennui of this book Gladwell heroically tells an anecdote of one man who spent one and a half years scrutinizing a clip of film 45 seconds long in a quest to observe the interactions and body language of half a dozen family members in a kitchen, the author himself is fascinated by this utter idiocy and vile sacrifice of precious time. That was one of the more interesting parts of the book. I know there are actually some people who enjoy this style of writing but for me it flows counter to everything that is creative and interesting. The entire book is one long exercise of stating the obvious and ultra boring analysis and unfortunately I didn't learn a single thing from it, but it was a poignant reminder of just how painfully boring and pointless some books can be. If you're thinking about reading it you have my deepest sympathy.
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on 12 June 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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on 6 February 2003
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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on 15 March 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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