Friday, July 08, 2011
The Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell
It's book report time! It's the time in which I read a book, then record my reading of this book for all time and infinity. Today's book is of the non-fiction, cross-between-economics-sociology variety. I think. I'm no economist or sociologist or non-fictionist. But if I were to classify this book it would be non-fiction-economics-sociology.
First, let's start with the author. I don't know much about Malcolm Gladwell, other than he's a writer for The New Yorker, and appears periodically on a Moth stage for some story-telling. Now it's time for some author research, which, coincidentally, is my favorite part of book reporting. This particular book is an extra special treat, because I feel there's a cosmic connection between the Rabid and the Gladwell. Maybe it's because I'm super GLAD when I'm feeling WELL? Maybe it's something else. Let's find out, shall we?
Mr. Gladwell, a Canadian, is the result of some diverse melting pot heritage. They say he descends from Indian, Igbo, Irish, English, and Scottish ancestors. They also say he's a distant cousin of Colin Powell.
When I learn of someone, or meet someone, I always like to observe where they come from. I like to get information on each of their parents; what they do for a living, what they're good at, their education, hobbies, and other stuff. People are very interesting. They are. And I find people are much more interesting when you get to know their parents, and subsequently observe how the offspray managed to pick and choose certain characteristic. One day I'll tell you all about my parents.
Today, however, I want to talk a bit about Malcolm's parents. Mr. Gladwell's father, Graham Gladwell, (GG!) was born in England and is a civil engineering professor. His mother, Joyce, was born in Jamaica, studied psychotherapy, and has authored a book or two herself. The Gladwells met in England where they had little Malcolm. When Malcolm was six the family moved to Elmira, Ontario, Canada.
Right directly, you can see why Malcolm Gladwell had an interest in scientific research that involves social behaviors. Scientist, engineering dad, and psychotherapist mom who writes – ba-bing! Malcolm Gladwell. It's like magic isn't it? I mean, I wonder if he just cued into the many actions and whatnot of his parents, or if they raised him to be this way on purpose. I'm raising kids now, you know, and these types of thoughts are very interesting to me.
Another interesting thing about Malcolm Gladwell is that he ran middle distance in high school. See! I knew there was a connection somehow, somewhere. We are both GLAD when we feel WELL, and we both spend/spent time running.
Now that we've observed the author, let's move on to the book. The Tipping Point, is a study of how little things can make a big difference. The book reviews a collection of earth-shattering events that were "tipped" into action by small little happenings.
The concepts and what-have-you are far too involved to begin summarizing here, but I'll give it by best shot. Basically, there are some people-types in this world that facilitate the spreading of these Tipping Points. They are connectors – people who know and collect massive amount of people and friendships; the Mavens – people who store massive amounts of information about a particular subject; and finally, Persuaders – people who are able to sell just about anything.
Connectors, Mavens, and Persuaders are the people that expedite big happenings. They are the people that spread the word because they know people, they know things, or they can sell things. This is mostly because people will actually listen and act upon whatever Connectors, Mavens, and Persuaders say and do. These type of people spread trends, products, and services. They also spread disease.
Another item of interest is what Gladwell refers to as "The Stickiness Factor." In order for epidemics to spread – both good and bad – the concept must "stick." He goes over certain theories and research that reveal what makes things stick.
For example, stickiness research was conducted on a show called Sesame Street. They studied children while watching the show to determine what types of things get concepts to stick. That's how big bird came to be. They found that while the adult actors were yak-yak-yaking on the street, the kids didn't pay attention and would not learn what the adults were teaching. When a puppet of some kind was thrown in with the adults, however, the concepts would stick. Since they needed a puppet that could be filmed walking, they creating a giant bird and called him Big Bird.
When it comes to the Stickiness Factor, there is also something called "The Power of Context" – how the context of the individual determines whether a concept will stick. One example used was nicotine addition, and how only certain types of people become addicted. They found that the genetic makeup of a person – context – determines whether an individual will become addicted. Some people, in their current context, are more susceptible than others to the Stickiness Factor.
This is a fabulously fascinating book. It's a thinker. And highly recommended.
Other Malcolm Gladwell books include: Blink, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures. I think I'll check those out too.