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508 of 540 found the following review helpful:
Brings 'Sticky' Ideas to a NexusMar 22, 2000
By John Buckley
I read this book in part of one day - it's a good, quick read. Unlike some of the people who didn't care for the book - I never read the New Yorker article. It may be that the book doesn't add enough new info to excite folks who have read that article. But to me the book threw out a good number of new ideas and concepts very quickly and very clearly. I found his ability to draw a nexus between things that, on the surface seem very divergent, was very interesting, and he did it smoothly, without jumping around a lot.
The thrust of the book is that there are three things that can converge to bring about dramatic and perhaps unexpectedly fast changes in our society. These are the context (the situational environment - especially when it's near the balance or 'tipping point'), the idea, and the people involved. His point is that very small changes in any or several of the context, the quality of the idea (which he calls 'stickiness', ie how well the idea sticks), or whether the idea reaches a very small group of key people can trigger a dramatic epidemic of change in society.
"In a given process or system some people matter more than others." (p.19). "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." (p.33).
He divides these gifted people into three categories: Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. "Sprinkled among every walk of life ... are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors." (p. 41). "I always keep up with people." (p. 44 quoting a "Connector"). "in the case of Connectors, their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy." (p.49). "The point about Connectors is that by having a foot in so many different worlds they have the effect of bringing them all together." (p.51).
"The word Maven comes from the Yiddish, and it means one who accumulates knowledge." (p. 60). "The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone's attention." (p.67). "The one thing that a Maven is not is a persuader. To be a Maven is to be a teacher. But it is also, even more emphatically to be a student." (p.69).
"There is also a select group of people -- Salesmen -- with the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing." (p. 70). He goes on to describe an individual named Tom Gau who is a Salesman. "He seems to have some indefinable trait, something powerful and contagious and irresistible that goes beyond what comes out of his mouth, that makes people who meet him want to agree with him. It's energy. It's enthusiasm. It's charm. It's likability. It's all those things and yet something more." (p. 73).
He then goes into the importance of actually gathering empirical data about ideas, and not just relying on theory or assumption to determine quality, or as he calls it, 'stickiness.' He gives examples of where assumptions have been debunked with data. "Kids don't watch when they are stimulated and look away when they are bored. They watch when they understand and look away when they are confused." (p.102). "Children actually don't like commercials as much as we thought they did." (p. 118) "The driving force for a preschooler is not a search for novelty, like it is with older kids, it's a search for understanding and predictability." (p. 126) Hence why your three year old can watch those Barney videos over and over until the tape breaks - it becomes predictable after the third or fourth viewing. This is probably also why Barney suddenly falls out of favor when predictability is less important than novelty.
Finally, there's a point he makes he calls the rule of 150. He starts with some British anthropologists idea that brain size, neocortex size actually, is related to the ability to handle the complexities of social groups. The larger the neocortex, the larger the social group that can be managed. She then charts primate neocortex size against known average social group sizes for various primates, other than humans. Then she plugs human neocortex size into the equation, and out pops 147.8, or about 150. Now that would be not so interesting, except that he goes on to talk about this religious group, the Hutterites. They are clannish like the Amish or Mennonites, and they have a rule that when a colony approaches 150, they split into two and start a new one. He follows that by noting that Military organizations generally split companies at 150-200. And then he talks about Gore - the company that makes Goretex, among other things. They have a ~150 employee per plant rule.
"At a bigger size you have to impose complicated hierarchies and rules and regulations and formal measures to try to command loyalty and cohesion. But below 150...it is possible to achieve the same goals infomally." (p.180)
"When things get larger than that, people become strangers to one another." (p.181)
"Crossing the 150 line is a small change that can make a big difference." (p. 183)
On the whole, I thought the book sparked thought and converstaion, and will make me look at life and business a little differently. To me that's a good book.
613 of 686 found the following review helpful:
Junk Science...buyer beware!Dec 22, 2006
By Craig Fisher
I know negative reviews tend to get dismissed or lost in the shuffle, especially for wildly popular books such as Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point; however, I think it's important to chime in on how this book fails to deliver on its basic premise. In essence, the Tipping Point describes how certain types of people (who Gladwell refers to as connectors, mavens, and salesmen), and certain circumstances (the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context), can help turn fashion, books, television shows into epidemics, and turn crime waves and smoking trends upside-down. And here is where Gladwell's Tipping Point fails: he uses the data of real-life examples to reason backwards in the formation of his theory. When read closely and critically, Gladwell only describes THAT things `tip' and not WHY they `tip'. As Karl Popper said of Freudian Theory (and of all science), it must be falsifiable. Here it seems unlikely that any observation or experimental paradigm could be developed to falsify the theory of The Tipping Point, which again, makes this book not very scientific. For example, if a person or circumstance met one of Gladwell's criteria, but failed to tip the item/situation, would it call his theory into question? You see where I'm going with this? If something was `sticky' (which the law of stickiness says makes certain information at certain times, irresistible) but didn't tip, does that mean it was never `sticky', or does something need to tip in order for it to be deemed `sticky'. And now we're talking circular logic, maybe backwards logic; the type of theory written on the back of a cocktail napkin at 2am that sounds like it explains everything. Again, not good science. I was really looking forward to this book, but the over-simplifications, sheer repetitiveness, and poor execution of writing scientifically made for a highly disappointing read.
782 of 881 found the following review helpful:
Interesting ReadMay 07, 2000
Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for New Yorker Magazine, in The Tipping Point, writes a fascinating study of human behavior patterns, and shows us where the smallest things can trigger an epidemic of change. Though loaded with statistics, the numbers are presented in a way that makes the book read like an exciting novel. Gladwell also gives several examples in history, where one small change in behavior created a bigger change on a national level. He also studies the type of person or group that it takes to make that change.
Gladwell's first example is the resurgence of the popularity of Hush Puppies, which had long been out of fashion, and were only sold in small shoe stores. Suddenly, a group of teenage boys in East Village, New York, found the cool to wear. Word-of-mouth advertising that these trend-setters were wearing the once-popular suede shoes set off an epidemic of fashion change, and boys all over America had to have the "cool" shoes.
Galdwell also examines the difference in personality it takes to trigger the change. For example, we all know of Paul Revere's famous ride, but how many of us know that William Dawes made a similar ride? The difference was that people listened to Revere and not to Dawes. Why? Revere knew so many different people. He knew who led which village, knew which doors to knock on to rouse the colonists. Dawes didn't know that many people and therefore could only guess which people to give his message.
There are several other phenomena that Gladwell examines, showing the small things that spark a change, from the dip in the New York City crime rate to the correlation between depression, smoking and teen suicide. If you want to change the world for the better, this book will give you an insight into the methods that work, and those that will backfire. It's all in knowing where to find The Tipping Point.
Jo @ MyShelf.Com
499 of 563 found the following review helpful:
Great Insights into Mass BehaviorsMar 07, 2000
By Robert Middleton
Despite an earlier reviewer poo-pooing this book for shallow insights, I beg to differ. This book is a fascinating and original take on what makes people behave in a certain way en masse. Tying together Paul Revere, Hush Puppies and many other very accessible ideas makes this book, that is in some ways very academic, read like a thriller. I read it in three sittings. It has an impact on several levels. One, as a marketer, it gave me insights into how word-of-mouth really works. I'll be experimenting with these concepts for years. Second, as a member of society, I gained insight into why I am pulled this way and that by trends. If you enjoyed this, you'll also enjoy the groundbreaking book by Robert Cialdini called "Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion." It makes some of the same points. Finally, it makes me think that some savvy activists will find some ways to use these principles to start societal epidemics that will ultimately have a positive effect. I believe Gladwell has introduced a concept, "the Tipping Point," that will have a wide-ranging impact on how we view the world and human behavior.
67 of 72 found the following review helpful:
A thought provoking, interesting and potentially useful bookJul 01, 2000
By Bruce M.
This relatively short book is a very pleasant surprise. Usually I am quite skeptical of new theories and concepts that attempt to explain human behavior, since the thinking, embedded in pompous language, often proves shallow and the primary goal seems simply to grab attention and book sales. Instead I found Gladwell's book well written, fast paced, interesting and thought provoking. Subject to translating its ideas successfully into practical actions, I believe it is potentially very useful in social sciences and business.
Gladwell's use of examples from very different fields adds to the interest in and credibility of the factors that contribute to a sudden "epidemic" - good or bad - of a behavior, an idea, a product or a belief. I am particularly intrigued by his concept that the true underlying causes and explanations for what we perceive as extremely complex social issues, for example, can be "tipped" with simple, direct actions in the right place at the right time. All too often governments and companies try to solve their big problems with excessively expensive, but ineffective programs or projects. I agree with him that attempted solutions frequently fail to address basic motivational factors and that the best solutions are often counterintuitive.
For those of us in business, I think the concepts in this book, properly applied, could make us more effective. Gladwell's business examples, his linkage to Geoffrey Moore's "Crossing the Chasm" and his brief discussion of the "magic 150" make the book worth reading. Far from being a "how to" handbook, considerable thought will be required to apply it practically, which I believe will be a good learning experience.
As I read the book I realized that many analogs of this concept exist in the physical world. There are many examples from stereo amplifiers to martial arts in which relatively small forces or energy inputs at the right place and time cause large differences in outcomes.
Why five stars? The book gave me a new perspective for thinking how and why things happen in society and business. It presents interesting observations and information about trends that affect us. I think it will be useful in my business. It is well written. And, it is unpretentiously short.
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