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The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.
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Main Idea: Tipping Epidemics
Rule 1: The Law of the Few
Rule 2: The Stickiness Factor
Rule 3: The Power of Context
Table of Contents
Main Idea 0
The best way to think about the emergence of new ideas, products and consumer preferences is to expect them to follow the laws of epidemics rather than traditional cause-and-effect relationships.
The three critical traits of epidemics are:
1 They are highly contagious – meaning small groups of people can spread an epidemic throughout the broader population.
2 Little changes can have big effects – once a critical mass of people are infected with a virus.
3 Changes happen dramatically rather than in a linear fashion – meaning ideas can spread quickly rather than building steadily.
The “Tipping Point” (a term coined by the people who study epidemics) is the name given to the moment at which an epidemic or a virus reaches critical mass. Once an epidemic reaches this point, it is poised to enjoy sudden and dramatic growth almost overnight. Or, to visualize this concept, the Tipping Point can be considered as a specific point on a balanced beam. When pressure is applied below the Tipping Point (Point A), only very limited results will be obtained. However, when pressure is applied beyond the Tipping Point, significantly larger results will be obtained.
The concept of a Tipping Point may seem counterintuitive at first. This is because most of us are used to the world operating in a linear fashion where the results are commensurate with the effort invested. However, the world of viruses is very different. In all such geometric progressions, there is a single point at which growth moves sharply upwards. This is the essence of the Tipping Point concept in action.
To actually reach and then ideally move beyond the Tipping Point, a new epidemic, virus or idea must obey three basic rules:
“The Tipping Point is the biography of an idea, and the idea is very simple. It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.” — Malcolm Gladwell
The process of spreading an epidemic is never a mass effort. Instead, the majority of the work will be done by a handful of exceptional people who have the appropriate skill sets. The three key types of people who spread epidemics are: 1. Connectors – people with a special gift for networking and bringing people together. 2. Mavens – information specialists who are always up to date with what’s new and interesting. 3. Salesmen – people who are good at persuading others to act in some way. To succeed in building an epidemic, you need all three of these types of exceptional people if you plan on succeeding.
Epidemics don’t just spread by themselves or by word-of-mouth recommendations. There’s just too much competition. Nor is the growth of a social epidemic dependent on the quality of the idea itself. Instead, to grow an epidemic to the point at which many more people become aware of it, the right kinds of people have to get involved with it at an early stage. Spreading an epidemic requires three key types of people with specialist skills and personalities to get involved:
Type 1 Connectors
These are people who have a gift for bringing the world together. A good connector:
■ Knows lots of people – who trust him or her and who will be willing to put a lot of credibility in the information passed on. Connectors have a knack for getting to know the people around them and their needs and preferences. They have a very wide circle of friends and acquaintances.
■ Knows the right kind of people – the “movers and shakers” of the world. Connectors cultivate friendships with people of influence and move about in a large number of different circles. The fact a good Connector has a foot in so many different worlds means ideas can travel quickly from one part of society to another through the unconscious efforts of the Connector.
■ Has an active imagination – and loves to check things out for himself or herself rather than rely on third-hand information. Connectors find something interesting about everyone they meet.
■ Tends to have a gregarious and outgoing personality.
■ Is intensely social – and lives for t he opportunity to be at the center of anything topical and interesting.
Type 2 Mavens
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