Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference released in 2000 is a detailed theory analyzing how trends form and develop. In The Tipping Point, Gladwell describes the evolution of trends as well as what factors and patterns seem to determine whether or not it will become a widespread phenomena or something that merely falls off the map. He does this by defining and explaining three key concepts which make up for a majority of the book. Those three themes include the Law of Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.
The Law of Few explains how messages are passed via verbal communication and social networks. Gladwell classifies the three types of people responsible for the Law of Few as either connectors, mavens, or salesmen.
Connectors are, much like they sound, those who have connections to others. The more connections a person has, the more power that person also has, which Gladwell defines as power law. This means, for example, that if I know 2,000 people at the University of Florida and someone else only knows three, my power law is greater than that person’s. If, however, someone knows more people than I do at UF, their power law is greater.
This is just a general, small scale example though, and I’m not even sure if it is really a good one because according to my understanding, even if Diplo didn’t know anyone in the Gator Nation, his power law would still be greater than mine because overall, he knows more people than I do and has a much bigger fan base which gives him access to more connections as well as the ability to spread ideas at a much faster and easier capacity than I currently could.
While Connectors spread the idea, Mavens are sort of the gatekeepers. Upon receiving the information, they interpret it and make judgements on it. Based on those judgments and their personal beliefs, they determine whether or not they want to pass that information along. If they decide to spread the word, they can also make adjustments to the original statement thus altering the idea before it spreads further. To me, they are sort of like lobbyists pushing for information they want to be heard and altering or ignoring statements they don’t support.
Last, but certainly not least, are the salesmen. They are charming talkers with a way with words so much so that they can not only convey messages onto others but also drastically sway the listener’s opinion. They’re able to sell the idea, which makes them a vital component to the tipping point because they can convince strangers to accept something that may have been completely in opposition of. When a salesman really supports a message, they’re able to easily influence others.
While connections and salesman are major contributors to the tipping point, the Stickiness Factor is a great indicator of whether or not a message will spread. If it has no value, it won’t stick and thus, it won’t spread to Mavens or anyone else. Gladwell wasn’t able to give clear, definite factors to determine the stickiness of something and notes that it is more opinion based.
The final main point in Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is the Power of Context which states that minor changes and tweaks to an idea or message slightly altering the original context can determine if it will tip or not. It also touches on the size of groups and how that affects efficiency because smaller groups tend to know each other better and thus trust the message more allowing it to spread faster to others.
I found The Tipping Point to be a very interesting read. It kind of reminded me of Richard Dawkins Memes: The New Replicators as it explains how ideas develop from one another and spread, though Memes is only a chapter from a larger collection. I understand Gladwell’s points but am not sure if I completely agree with them because I feel it is too hard to distinguish between the three categories in the Law of Few. I think people can definitely be a combination of two if not all three of those, which then seems superfluous for the categories in the first place.