Why only a few books become bestsellers but others don’t. Why it becomes cool for teenagers to smoke and most importantly, why one idea goes viral and others not.
Malcolm Gladwell attempts to answer this with an idea he calls the tipping point. That magic moment when an idea trend or social behavior crosses a threshold tip and spreads like wildfire.
The idea can be broken down into three principles:
- The law of the few
- The stickiness factor
- The power of context
Lesson 1: The law of the few
Gladwell identifies three types of people who seem to help epidemics grow quickly. They are 1. Connectors, 2. Mavens and 3. Salespeople
- Connectors are those people who seem to know everyone. Everyone knows someone like this. They have more social connections than most people and are great at making friends.
- Mavens are the people that seem to know everything and always want to help. They are like that guy who was eager to show you how to make the perfect golf swing or the lady who is excited to show you which skincare products are best and why. They enjoy helping you out simply because they love what they do.
- Salespeople make you end up with that tie that you never wear. All those computer gadgets you never use. These people know how to sell and they love what they do. They let their actions do the talking and they utilize the power of body language.
Based on Gladwell’s works we can confidently presume that connectors, mavens and salespeople made a significant contribution to the growth.
Lesson 2: The stickiness factor
- The lesson of stickiness is the same. 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. That song that sticks in your head or that thing a person has said that doesn’t leave your mind.
- Gladwell talks about Sesame Street and how they increase children’s attention rates by placing words behind the Muppets rather than next to them. The content did not change, just the placement.
- It’s not always the major changes in how we present things that matter, but the small ones. Minor changes can produce massive results. What makes something sticky is different for everything and will always be a mystery. So what can we do? Although Gladwell doesn’t hand us the answer on a silver platter, I believe the answer is to experiment.
Lesson 3: The power of context
- Our environment affects our actions. Gladwell cites research that argues that if there are broken windows in a neighborhood, there will be a higher violent crime rate. People will walk by and conclude that no one is in charge.
- Soon more windows will be broken and the sense of anarchy and carelessness will spread from the building to the whole street. According to the power of context, if you want the crime rate to go down, then fix the windows instead of arresting people for murder.
- This is better known as the broken window theory, which applies to everything. If you want to be an entrepreneur for example then hang around other entrepreneurs. If you want to clear your head of distractions, then claim your bedroom and eliminate everything in your environment that could be distracting. If you want to be a great painter then put up paintings in your home and hang around artists that are more experienced than you.