The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
|Little, Brown & Company
"The Tipping Point" was Malcolm Gladwell's first book, written in 2000, and has been followed up by three more books, all bestsellers. Like other books he's written, it analyzes social phenomena and tries to explain it in a different way. Most of us tend to look at the world as partly inexplicable and dependent on "chance" and partly ruled by human endeavor. However, Gladwell suggests that maybe there is a different way of looking at the world, deriving inspiration from the study of epidemics such as AIDS.
When epidemiologists study diseases, they find that a disease usually travels leisurely through a population at first and then suddenly reaches a point where it explodes and starts affecting large numbers of people. This was true of AIDS which reached the point of explosion, or the tipping point, in 1982 and started infecting many more people than before. Gladwell's point is that we can use the tipping point more generally in life to understand the phenomena around us. He gives the example of Hush Puppies, a style of footwear that had become increasingly less popular until its makers were almost ready to stop production when, all of a sudden, without the benefit of any advertising, Hush Puppies just took off. The reason, Gladwell believes, is because a certain group of people, who were very influential, started wearing hush puppies and induced those around them to do the same.
Gladwell also goes on to talk about three different kinds of people who are influential in spreading information. He refers to them as Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. Connectors are people who have a large social network while Mavens are those who collect information, becoming experts on a certain topic. People naturally turn to Mavens when they need to know more about a certain topic. Salesmen are people who can be very persuasive and charismatic. The presence of people like these in society leads to the creation of fads like the popularity of Hush Puppies and the decline in the crime rate in NYC after Mayor Giuliani's term in office. There are, of course, destructive fads as well, such as smoking which continues to be popular among teens despite efforts to educate them about its dangers.
Gladwell theorizes that we can use knowledge of the tipping point to create good fads and prevent bad ones. He gives us another way of looking at the world and the opportunity to do some good by utilizing this information. His style is elegant but full of enthusiasm.
Malcolm Gladwell is a British-Canadian author who was born in Hampshire, England to a Jamaican mother and a British father. He was always ambitious, even as a little boy, and would run around the offices of the University of Waterloo where his father worked. This familiarized him with books and libraries. However, after graduating college, he wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to do and, after trying to get a job in advertising, he ended up writing for The American Spectator in Indiana. He moved to The Washington Post after a while and eventually ended up at The New Yorker. He has written four books which have all been on the NYT bestseller list.
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