The Tipping Point

This is an extract of a synopsis taken from WellRead. You can read the full synopsis of this book and find other, alternative, summaries here.

Malcolm Gladwell is a prolific writer and most notably known for his bestselling books such as “Outliers” and “The Tipping Point”. Having worked with the New Yorker as a writer, he discovered the passion of writing about subjects that have intrigued the common populace. In December 1996, he proposed the idea of a “tipping point” that existed among social trends. The article that soon developed into a bestselling book “The Tipping Point” delves artistically into the concept of ideas that “tip” versus those that do not. Gladwell hunts down the rules of tipping point and finds three critical parameters that cause a tipping point in the social industry – contagiousness, small causes leading to big effects and sudden changes.

The first chapter of the tipping point describes the syphilis endemic of Baltimore and connects it with the three causes. The three causes mentioned by Gladwell are refined into three rules called as “the law of the few”. This is where a fractional percentage of people are entitled to perform the majority of the work in order to build the momentum. The second rule is the “stickiness factor” or how a message can make an impact and stick to the hearts and minds of people. The third rules defines by the author is “the power of context” which is the level of sensitivity of a group of people towards their perceived environment. Malcolm identifies three kinds of people – connectors, mavens and salesmen. Connectors are people born with the gift of connecting or bringing people together. Mavens are information specialists or people who pay attention to the difference in price or quality of products. The third type of people is salesmen and they possess the skills to persuade the common population when they are unconvinced about any news. Coming back to the stickiness factor, branding is one such popular theme that compels the phenomenon to stick in the minds of public and influence their future behaviour.

Experiencing the power of context can be understood through the trends that tip into mass popularity – mainly due to the power of context. For a trend to turn popular, it is important for a large number of people to embrace it in a short period of time. However, Gladwell says that group size and type can be a leading factor in achieving the tipping point. The author discusses the band-aid approach where solutions are devised to treat the symptoms rather than the underlying problem. Notable concepts such as charismatic people theory, favouritism, power of few and broken windows theory are highlighted in the book.

The tipping point is that dramatic moment when small or unknown causes can drive an unexpected expect into reality and propel the idea known as “radical change” to a certain level of acceptance. The objective of the book is to give a detailed account of how tipping points are a reaffirmation of the potential to change and take intelligent actions. It is an absolute truth that people are highly influenced by their surroundings, what holds context for them and the personalities that surround the primary person in question. The author reports about the huge sense of hopelessness that surrounds people and what actions should be taken (such as changing the size of group) to improve receptivity. Slight modifications of the presentation of information can improve the stickiness quotient and remembrance. Changing the social epidemics is possible by reaching out to those people who hold social power to change and can bring radical change in the society.


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