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Monday, June 25, 2007

Book Review: The Tipping Point

How do epidemics spread?  What about fashion trends? How should you market an idea? How does any idea spread? According to Malcolm Gladwell, there are three rules:

  1. The Law of the Few
  2. The Stickiness Factor, and
  3. The Power of Context.

Gladwell has done his research on a wide range of topics from graffiti on a subway to HIV/AIDS epidemic, Paul Revere's Ride to Blues Clues, Airwalk shoes to teenage smoking.  Despite all the research Gladwell has made this "biography of an idea" (pg 7) easy to read, using common language not anthropology jargon.

I've not read anyone who takes a complex idea such as epidemic theory and makes it simple to read and understand.  Using terms like Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen, he describes real people who have helped set trends or change the world.  Have you ever heard of William Dawes? I may have but definitely didn't remember the name.  Did you know he was given the same task as Paul Revere, Revere was much more successful and more famous.  Revere was a Connector and the book explains why and the impact that had on the American Revolution. 

The book is filled with many excellent quotes and lots of good information.  Here are a few that help describe the book better:

Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.  (pg 7)

But the world of the Tipping Point is a place where the unexpected becomes expected, where radical change is more than possibility.  It is -- contrary to all our expectations -- a certainty. (pgs 13-14)

The Law of the Few looked at the kinds of people who are critical in spreading information. The chapter on Sesame Street and Blue's Clues looked at the question of Stickiness, suggesting that in order to be capable of sparking epidemics, ideas have to be memorable and move us to action. ... the Power of Context ... Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur. (pg 139)

I won't say it is a must read, because some would find the overall topic boring or a waste of time.  But it is a good read if you are interested in learning about how ideas spread or are just generally curious about learning!



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