Book Corner: The Tipping Point

How do you break free from the moulds that have shaped the way you’ve been thinking?

I’ve had somewhat a productive time overthinking during lockdowns you might say. One of these informative reads was The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Photo by Andrei Shiptenko on Unsplash

I had previously read Outliers by Malcom so already had in mind that this book would be an interesting read. The Tipping Point looks at the phenomena of how social epidemics occur such as ideas, trends, messages and behaviours. How does a fashion trend become trendy? How does a brand become so popular compared to their competitors? Why crime rates rise and fall in certain areas? How does ‘word of mouth’ work?

I had always thought that these occurred when popularity reaches the masses or are a result of very good marketing campaigns. Turns out it is way more complicated that this.

There are 3 laws of epidemics:

  1. The Law of the Few
    There are a few exceptional key people in society who are capable of starting social epidemics and they are:
  • Connectors: These are the people who just seem to know everyone else in a few steps and occupy different social circles across different worlds in society. They have a knack of making friends and acquaintances easily and have these contacts in different social worlds and are therefore effective at bringing these people together.
  • Mavens: These people are information specialists and keep the marketplace honest. They know a good sale is on and spread the word to all their friends and family. Similarly, if a store tried to pull a sale stunt and the Mavens found out- this would also spread to all their family and friends. They want to help others for no other reason than because they like to.
  • Salesmen: These people have mastery over persuasion and are great at having conversations and creating a conversation rhythm.
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

2. The Stickiness Factor

The 2nd law of epidemics is to find a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. The book looks at Sesame Street and Blues Clues as examples on how both these shows were engineered to kids through a lot of trial and error. Teach the kids how to think in the same way that kids teach themselves how to think- in the form of a story.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

3. The Power of Context

The 3rd law of epidmics is the power of context. Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur because behaviour is a function of social context. As such, epidemics can be reversed, can be tipped, by tinkering with the smallest details of the immediate environment. An example mentioned in this book is how cleaning up crime in a neighbourhood just by scrubbing graffiti and arresting fare-beaters was able to reduce crime rate.

Another power of context is groups. Once we’re in groups, we become susceptible to a range of social norms and peer pressure. This brings us to the rule of 150. 150 seems to be represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how theyare related to us. Keeping things under 150 seems to be the best and most efficient way to manage a group of people. The paradox of epidemics? In order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements.

I thought this was another interest book by Malcolm which ties in together different psychological concepts worth reading if you’re interested in this sort of thing. Have you read this or other similar books?

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4 thoughts on “Book Corner: The Tipping Point

  1. Sounds like a very interesting read. I can always listen to or read Malcolm. He brings a new perspective to the table, a new way of interpreting data that is intriguing and thought-provoking. I’ll try to find an audiobook to listen to during my walks. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I first read Malcolm Gladwell’s books when I was a teenager, and I recently re-read them as an adult. While I find his ideas on psychology and his story-telling skills remarkable, I also am aware that it’s important to take his theories with a grain of salt, for many of his hypotheses on certain phenomena can be very off; I’m especially referring to his theory on why Asians are so good at math (in “Outliers”), which I found very strange and somewhat racist. It’s important to regard him as a journalist first before anything else, and I’ve since read his books as a form of entertainment.

    1. So funny you mention this. I had recently read another psychology book written by another journalist and thought it was weird that a psychologist didn’t write it instead. I barely remember the reason, was the reason the counting system?

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