The Tipping Point

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2000. Like epidemics, ideas can spread and cause great changes. But some ideas are very contagious and some die out quickly. Why? Gladwell explores this question in The Tipping Point by looking at everything from the midnight ride of Paul Revere to the prevalence of teenage smoking. And what he discovers is fascinating.

People carry ideas, but not all carriers are equal. Successful messengers come in three types: Connectors (people who know everyone), Mavens (people who know everything), and Salesmen (people who can explain why something is important). Likewise, not all messages are equal; some ideas “stick” while others fade away quickly. It takes both a good carrier and a sticky message for an idea to spread. But contrary to common sense, most ideas do not spread gradually. Rather, they grow slowly until they reach some critical juncture, a tipping point, when they explode uncontrollably. What is intriguing is that the tipping point need not be anything grand. Indeed, as Gladwell shows in case after fascinating case, it is often the simplest of things that cause the most change. Can eliminating graffiti lower crime? Can repeated viewings increase the learning potential of television? It turns out that humans are much more sensitive to their environment than we might want to believe.

Immensely engaging and truly enjoyable, The Tipping Point is a must have for anyone interested in human psychology and the power of ideas.