The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
rating: 4 of 5 stars
So back in March of 2007 when I started this book, I thought it was ok - just another good, popular business book that I should probably read. The introduction was kind of dry and hard to get into when I was trying to read it on zero hours of sleep in the Charles De Gaulle Parisian airport. So I put it down for a bit...quite a long bit, as approximately two years when by before I picked it back up again.
And thank goodness I did. Once I made it past the introduction, I started to get into the meat, the heart of the book, which is a fascinating study of how social epidemics, whether it's a trendy new shoe or teenage smoking, get started and succeed. It's a study that looks at the actions of people and tries to make sense of why do some people act the way that they do? What makes a trend take off among people?
From a business/marketing standpoint, this is a great study. It provides a minefield of data and people to look for - the Salesmen, Connectors, and Mavens (the Law of the Few), as well as the encouragement to think outside of the box to figure out how to make a message "sticky" (The Stickiness Factor). It also makes the marketer think about how does your environment, your surroundings (the fascinating Broken Window theory, or also The Power of Context) affect your message? The thoughtful Afterword that comes at the end of the book also presents the challenges and questions of how does one overcome the Rise of Immunity to a message (my answer is engagement in social media marketing) and the importance of Finding the Mavens as your best ally in spreading the word about your product.
From a human, sociological, and in my case a Christian world-view, the book offers a dramatic look at how people are inherently and subconsciously influenced by the power of community. Especially in America, people like to flaunt their individualism as part of their identity. They are an individual so they make their own decisions and whatever else someone thinks does not matter or affect their actions and decisions. Gladwell's book gives countless examples of how little factors make a HUGE difference and how people, especially children and teens, are influenced by what their community around them tells them. The subversive thing about it, is that often these cues are subconscious, and a person responds out of those subconscious cues more than they would ever admit personally. It also is fascinating that children and teens are more influenced by their peers and the subconscious "permission" that these peers give them to try or do all sorts of things - which sometimes results in unspeakable destructive acts.
All in all, there is a lot to be learned from this book. I have read several reviews on here that seek to debunk all the theories or rail against it for lack of empirical data, but I can't agree with those arguments. It's not a life-changing book and I don't think that it should be read in that way. I believe that it should be read as a guide to think about human behavior and decisions in a way that we've never considered before. It is a great study of human behavior and how the little things really do make more of a difference than anyone has ever been aware of before. I liked this book enough that I'm going to put Gladwell's book, "Blink", on my "to-read" list, in the hopes that it is a continuation of this kind of interesting study on human behavior.
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