Summer Reading List – The Tipping Point

“The tipping point in Washington is when you go from being a subject of caricature to the subject of laughter” –Bruce Fein

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point

I had already read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers before I started this book. I love Gladwell’s style. He is an amazingly good writer. His books are like the Schoolhouse Rock of the literary world: fun, catchy, and when you’re finished, you’ve actually learned stuff.

I love the format of his books as well. He has this fascinating way of weaving together a story with both scientific and anecdotal examples. With both Outliers and Tipping Point, I found myself noting the topics (the people, events) that he discusses so that I could research them more myself later.

His books aren’t “academic” in the sense that they aren’t an amalgamation of peer-reviewed articles/books on the subject matter. While they may include scientific studies, that isn’t the only basis for his conclusions. This may certainly make them less scientifically reliable, but it does make them a hell of a lot more interesting.

Tipping Point is about how trends/epidemics/etc. “tip,” that is go from something that few people experience to something that many people experience. Gladwell outlines three laws involved in tipping points.

The first is the law of few. He argues you need specific types of people. He discusses the three types of people who make an event tip; connectors (the people who link everyone together), mavens (the people who are information brokers), and salesman (the people who are very charismatic). During this whole discussion, I kept wondering where I fit in.

The second law is that the event needs the stickiness factor, that it must be memorable. The discussion about Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues is so fascinating.

The third law describes the power of context, that the event must occur in an environment that is conductive to an epidemic. I was reading this during the H1N1 drama and I really got to thinking about how the environment shaped that potential epidemic.

I won’t ruin all of the book, because you really should read it for yourself. And then read everything else Gladwell has written.