7.14 Tipping Point

This is not so much a book review as a book summary.  Doesn’t do justice to the book since the delight in reading the book are the myriad of stories Gladwell presents.

Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

by Malcolm Gladwell

Cf to abundant gospel sowing, seek out men of peace,

Question of the book: How does a movement begin? Or an epidemic or a fad or an idea?

Key idea of the book “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” 7

Three main ideas in the book

  1. Good ideas are contagious: a small number of people can bring about a change that impacts many
  2. Little changes can bring big effects
  3. Once the critical factors are in place, epidemics happen very quickly. Change happens not gradually but in one dramatic moment or at a tipping point

Synonyms for tipping point: critical mass, threshold, boiling point 12

Why do some messages tip and others do not? Gladwell identified 3 agents or reasons for tipping points.

1.  Law of the Few-you need certain kinds of messengers to get an idea out

  1. Connectors or people specialists

¨      “people with a special gift for bringing people together” 38

¨      Know lots of people and many different kinds of people

¨      “give us access to opportunities and a world to which we don’t belong” 54

  1. Mavens or info specialists

¨      Collect info and pass it on to others

¨      Enjoy helping other people solve problems

¨      Students, teachers, educators

¨      Data banks

  1. Persuaders or sales people

¨      Persuade others to do something

¨      How does persuasion occur? For some people, this comes naturally

2. Stickiness Factor-content of the message, is our message contagious?

¨      memorable and it moves people to action or changes their behaviors

¨      Why do people stop, read a flyer, remember the message and act on it?

¨      Direct marketers work hard to discover what makes an idea sticky

¨      Can discover this sometimes by studying our audience and discovering what connects with them?  (Vella calls this ? dimensions)

  1. By changing the structure and format of an idea we may enhance the stickiness of the idea
  2. What makes something sticky may be counter-intuitive
  3. We may think that it is the inherent quality of our ideas that sticks but often the presentation of the idea may determines whether or not it sticks 131
  4. To make something sticky is to discover “simple ways to package information so that under the right circumstances it is irresistible.” 132

3.      Power of Context-a sensitivity to the conditions (times and places) in which ideas occur

¨      Epidemics can be started or reversed by the smallest of changes

¨      We must be sensitive and perceptive to what things influence human behavior

¨      Tipping points often come when we change the way an audiences see our idea in some small yet critical respect


Tipping points start when

¨      The influence of special people are involved

¨      You are able to make the content of your message “sticky”

¨      You are able to discover small changes in the context that get things started

From an interview with Gladwell in the Presbyterian Record March 1, 2001

What would you do if you were going to work in a church?

Try to understand who . . . has these special social gifts: of being social, of knowledge and of being persuasive. . .  They can be people who can become powerful building blocks for a religious movement. I would also try to define the kind of person I wanted to appeal to or the specific population I wanted to reach out to. I would try to think deeply about how to make social contact with that group. . . What I am saying is to be aware of the social capital . . . what kind of social help is available. . .Ultimately, the real reason the world goes around is . . . the strength of relationships between individuals. People who have the friendship and respect of others have the most power of all. Understanding and appreciating that kind of power is extremely important.

Two things are odd about stickiness as a concept. The things that make it memorable are often different from what makes it fun. The second thing is that the things that make it sticky and memorable are not intuitive. Something is often memorable for a reason you never thought about. . . Unless you systematically go out and test what makes something sticky, you may never discover its stickiness factor. People should be encouraged to experiment with different ways of communication and try to measure their effectiveness. And prepare to be surprised. I am always struck by how little experimentation there is among communicators. They always assume they know. But, often, you cannot know.

Some ideas

Who are the messengers in our community?  Networkers, idea sharers, persuaders

What part of the gospel do we need to focus on that may be sticky to our audience?

What small adjustments can we make that might bring about major changes?

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