The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell opened me up to a completely new way to look at the world. I’ve always been aware of trends in fashion, in technology, and even the more recently “what’s trending” on twitter. The definition of a trend is a general direction in which something is developing or changing. However, in this book, we learned that for something to truly catch on like wildfire, it has to cross over “the tipping point.” Trends in the novel are described as epidemics and are compared to real epidemics like the flu. As the book states, “epidemics (such as viruses) are strongly influenced by their situation – by the circumstances and conditions and particulars of the environments in which they operate.” This too can be said about global epidemics of ideas, products, behaviors, messages, trends, and much more. Gladwell does an excellent job through out the novel of explaining this theory by using real world examples and referencing their point of tipping into popularity.
Gladwell says there are three basic rules of epidemics. These include the Law of Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.
The Law of Few says that the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts. Gladwell uses the example of Paul Revere’s famous ride in Boston warning the Patriots that “the British are coming.” This word-of-mouth warning is a direct example of an epidemic spreading like wildfire. In fact, Gladwell goes on to make the point that word-of-mouth is “the most important form of human communication” even in our age of cell phones, social media, and mass communication at our fingertips. In this example, Revere acts as the connector of the information to the people of Boston. His message spread because of the importance of his message as well as the nature of himself as the messenger.
The Stickiness Factor basically says that whatever your trend, is it memorable enough to never be forgotten? You want it to stand out so that your point comes across easily and with the right amount of emphasis. An example of this is the advertising theory that an ad must be seen at least six times before anyone will remember it. Gladwell uses Nike and Coca-Cola in the book as examples of companies who use lots of advertisements daily on television, magazines, etc. to spread their product and make them household names.
The Power of Context says that humans are much more sensitive to their situation or environment surrounding them than they seem to be. In turn, epidemics are also sensitive to the environments they come about in, whether it is time or place. Gladwell says that to get people to change their behaviors and start acting in a different manner than their usual, some changes need to be made within the smallest details of their environment rather than the largest ones.
Overall, I found this novel quite interesting and will definitely be recommending it to my friends. It’s nice to have a different perspective after reading it, and it also gives it’s audience a lot to ponder on how by just crossing over The Tipping Point a trend can impact the world in an enormous manner.