Reading Time: 2 minutes

My book review this week is on Malcolm Gladwell’s bookThe Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceThe book is a study of epidemics – and what factors are most in play when a movement tips. Several takeaways include:

  • Gladwell discusses his three “rules” of epidemics – The Stickiness Factor, The Power of Context, and the Law of the Few. The Power of Context says that people are more sensitive to their environment than we have thought. The Stickiness Factor is about making messaging, products, and ideas more memorable. Gladwell’s Law of the Few attempts to define those rare qualities that a very few people have that makes us take notice.
  • Gladwell describes these three rare qualities as: mavens – those who accumulate information and enjoy passing it on, salespeople – those who are incredibly persuasive, and connectors – those people with a lot of acquaintances who know how to make introductions. If you want to start a powerful movement or an epidemic, you need to find these kinds of people.
  • While you definitely need the messengers, the stickiness factor is also important. Stickiness ensures that people remember your idea, product, or messaging. The challenge is to discover how to create stickiness.
  • Relationships and peer pressure are more important to execution than edicts from management. The Rule of 150, developed by Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, says that organizations that are larger than about 150 people lose the power of effective social relationships. This is why Gore-Tex builds plants that are almost next door to each other. A plant of no more than 150 employees functions most effectively, with stable relationships between the workers driving performance.
  • The Power of Context says that a small change in the environment can make a big change in performance. He uses this to explain how to reverse an epidemic. He cites, as an example, the NYC clean-up efforts – which reduced crime significantly. Residents in a community surrounded by broken windows are simply not motivated to behave and thus crime increases when graffiti and slums expand.