As one of my favourite books, The Tipping Point continues to pop back into my work year after year. And it never gets old.
The basic idea of the book is to describe and try to understand “That magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Galdwell gives the reader some great examples of how trends take off using the analogy of how epidemics spread.
“…ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.”
The book explains how a product or service’s popularity can spread just like an epidemic of a disease with three guiding principles:
- Little causes have big effects
- Change can happen in a single moment
While the book focuses a lot on this analogy and presents case studies of these social epidemics, the biggest lessons here are about human behavior. Knowing why and how a social epidemic happens gives readers an effective tool for competing in the marketplace. The three rules of epidemics break down the concept for a good understanding of how all this works.
“…the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”
The Law of the Few — Readers learn here that certain people can jump-start an epidemic.
- Connectors. These are the influential types who are very active in social media and other networks. They spread the word.
- Mavens. These people are the ones who focus on a specific niche. They love being the “know it all,” and they love to talk about it.
- Salesmen. These champions of an idea or product have the skill to convince and persuade. They can point out the benefits.
The Law of the Few teaches readers that specific people have the skills to launch a social epidemic. Understanding these skills and finding the people who have them can make all the difference.
“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.”
The Stickiness Factor
Some ideas stick, and some don’t. This section explains why. It also explains how to make an idea or product “stickier.” Using examples that explain why one idea takes hold while a seemingly similar idea doesn’t, readers learn how to make their idea stick and spread.
There is a fine line between having an idea embraced or dismissed. Readers learn here how to tip the scales in their favor and be on the right side of that line. The Stickiness Factor teaches readers that understanding their customers or audience will help them find those sticking points that make their idea take hold.
“The key to getting people to change their behavior, in other words, sometimes lies with the smallest details of their immediate situation.”
The Power of Context
Epidemics depend on the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur. Certain people are more sensitive to their environment, and that affects their behavior. Readers learn that subtle changes can have a big impact when they happen in the right context. Readers can think of the old adage, “the right place at the right time” and they will understand the foundation of this rule.
While The Power of Context teaches that people’s environment influences their behavior more than anything else, the idea may not be as radical as some readers see it. Especially today, when people have a large number of “peers” with social media and more access to the world around them, it’s pretty easy to make the case for the power of environment and The Power of Context.