The Tipping Point LO29962

From: Heidi and Dan Chay (
Date: 03/04/03

Hi LO my virtual friends,

On the possibility you haven't come across the book already, I thought I
might share with you a quick summary/interpretation/taste of "The Tipping
Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," by Malcolm Gladwell
(2000): .

Evidently Gladwell was a reporter for the Washington Post, and since 1966
has been a staff writer for the New Yorker. This book of 275 pages plus
endnotes is an easy and pleasurable read.

Gladwell builds his observations around the metaphor of an epidemic. Using
a myriad of entertaining academic and anecdotal examples, he observes
three primary categories of variable can "tip" a linear or
close-to-equilibrium dynamic into geometric or exponential growth. Under
each category below, I've included a number of excerpts.


This refers to the observation that typically a few highly interactive
agents may be the key to "tipping" an epidemic-like dynamic. These may be
identified as: infectious agents, messengers, umlomo, connectors, people
who bridge identity groups, opinion leaders, "otherness"-people, mavens,
salesmen, etc..

"...a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few
steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special

"...the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the
involvement of people with a rare set of social gifts."

"...Connectors, people with a special gift for bringing the world

"They are people whom all of us can reach in only a few steps because, for
one reason or another, they manage to occupy many different worlds and
subcultures and niches."

They care: "I love my clients, okay? I'll bend over backwards for them,"
Gau said. "I call my clients my family. I tell my clients, I've got two
families. I've got my wife and my kids and I've got you."


Very small changes in the expression of the message, content, disease,
etc., can make a huge difference in "stickiness" or fruitfulness.

"Winston tastes good ..."

"If they couldn't make sense of what they were looking at, they weren't
going to look at it."

"At three and four and five, children may not be able to follow
complicated plots and subplots. But the narrative form, psychologists now
believe, is absolutely central to them."

"There is a simple way to package information that, under the right
circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it."


Very small, not-intuitive changes in the surrounding environment can make
a huge difference in tipping an epidemic-like dynamic.

"...human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they
may seem."

"But the lesson of the Power of Context is that we are more than just
sensitive to changes in context. We're exquisitely sensitive to them."

"It takes only the smallest of changes to shatter an epidemic's

"The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behavior is not coming from a
certain kind of person but from a feature of the environment."

"...what we think of as inner states -- preferences and emotions -- are
actually powerfully and imperceptibly influenced by seemingly
inconsequential personal influences..."

"...there are specific situations so powerful that they can overwhelm our
inherent predispositions."


What are the variables that really make a difference?

"If I asked you to describe the personality of your best friends, you
could do so easily, and you wouldn't say things like "My friend Howard is
incredibly generous, but only when I ask him for things, now then his
family asks him for things,..." "...when we think only in terms of
inherent traits and forget the role of situations, we're deceiving
ourselves about the real causes of human behavior."

"The mistake we make in thinking of character as something unified and
all-encompassing is very similar to a kind of blind spot in the way we
process information. Psychologists call this tendency the Fundamental
Attribution Error, which is a fancy way of saying that when it comes to
interpreting other people's behavior, human beings invariably make the
mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits
and underestimating the importance of the situation and context. We will
always reach for a 'dispositional' explanation for events, as opposed to a
'contextual' explanation."

"A vervet, in other words, is very good at processing certain kinds of
vervetish information, but not so good at processing other kinds of
information. The same is true of humans.

HOW DO WE CREATE A MOVEMENT? (My interpretive heading.)

" order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create
many small movements first."

"She needed a place where women were relaxed, receptive to new ideas, and
had the time and opportunity to hear something new....She also needed a
new messenger, someone who was a little bit Connector, a little bit
Salesman, and a little bit Maven....Her solution? Move the campaign from
black churches to beauty salons."


The question often is posed to this list, "How to transform an OO into an
LO?" We've seen all the ideas illuminated by Gladwell featured on this
list: Otherness, Fruitfulness, Liveness, Spareness, Openness, Sureness,
Wholeness, entropy production, leverage, etc.. Still, I came away from
reading it with some new insight.

Grins and best wishes,

Dan Chay


Heidi and Dan Chay <>

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