The Tipping Point Review

Tipping-PointThe Tipping Point provided an interesting way to look at life and change within it. The author, Malcom Gladwell, said there are three basic characteristics of change: “one, contagiousness; two, the fact that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment…” He talks about this in examples and describes the recent phenomenon of going “viral.” and how these things happen, and what they mean in society.

In chapter one, he discusses three rules of epidemics. To me, the best part about this book is not the rules themselves, but what he uses to describe them. He gives very specific and interesting examples like a yawn being contagious and the trend of Hush Puppies shoes.

The Law of the Few is the first rule explained that only a few people are responsible for spreading a single idea. He mentions the theory of six-degrees of separation which I have always found interesting. Because of subcultures and niches and groups, for one reason or another, we can all reach each other in different ways.In a smaller sense, this reminded me of how I feel at UF. This huge school of over 50,000 undergraduate students seems so small when you are on Facebook looking at mutual friends, or being introduced to people you have met other ways. All the small groups and clubs make campus seem much smaller and connects everyone. That we are all connected so tightly in this huge populous world. His example to describe this is that only a few people are responsible for the widespread “epidemic” of sexually transmitted diseases. This works in a lot of other scenarios as well. If people continue to stand behind an idea, it is more likely to be successful. Like a bandwagon effect. So I can see that a trend could spread this same way and become ubiquitous quickly within our population at UF.

The Stickiness Factor is that the content of a message matters. Gladwell uses messages portrayed in children’s shows like Blues Clues and the message of “gold box” to a mail order music company, and a few other direct marketing plugs as examples. What is described as the “stickiness” is what gets people to attach to an idea or product.

The last claim Gladwell spoke about was the Power of Context. He said that “epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.” Our environment.  Gladwell says this is extremely important to an idea gaining traction or creating a larger effect. An example he used to describe this law was crime rates in New York City in the 90’s. Small changes that authorities made in the city in those years drastically decreased crime in the city. This reminded me of the “butterfly effect.” When small changes in your environment, changes that you might not even notice happen, end up creating a much larger effect or change in the future. (A butterfly that flaps its small wings creates the tiniest breeze, but as that breeze continues, it creates winds that amount to a tsunami across the planet.)

Gladwell mentioned suicide as a “tipping point”. I found this strange and somewhat offensive. I would not consider suicide a trend, and there is much more that goes into that illness than he describes. I found a few examples in the book that seemed maybe a little hyperbolic to me, or like a stretched example of the point he was making. but for the most part, it was an interesting read about human nature and what makes things tip.

Gladwell spoke a lot about marketing strategies for people and what might make a product catch on. As a journalist, however, what i took away was how an idea or piece of work could catch on or go “viral” or start a bigger conversation between more people. It made me think about how any idea can reach its tipping point.




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