The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Posted: July 11, 2010 in Book Notes
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  • The name given to the one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point.
    • The Tipping Point is the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.
  • Contagiousness is an unexpected property of all kinds of things.
    • Yawning is incredibly contagious.
  • Epidemics are examples of geometric progression.
    • As human beings we have a hard time with this kind of progression, because the end result – the effect – seems far out of proportion to the cause.
  • 80/20 Principle – in any situation roughly 80% if the “work” will be done by 20% of the participants.
  • When people are in a group, responsibility for acting is diffused.
  • The Three Rules of the Tipping Point
    • Law of the Few
    • The Stickiness Factor
    • The Power of Context
  • Six degrees of separation is the result of the psychologist Stanley Milgram’s experiment.
    • A very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.
  • In general, people choose friends of similar age and race. But if the friend lived down the hall, then age and race became a lot less important.
    • Proximity overpowered similarity.
    • We are friends with the people we do things with, as much as we are with the people we resemble.
    • We don’t seek out friends – we associate with people who occupy the same small, physical spaces that we do.
  • Maven – one who accumulates knowledge.
    • A maven’s motivation is not to persuade, it is to educate and to help.
    • Mavens are information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.
  • What make someone eloquent is the subtle, the hidden, and the unspoken.
  • Motor mimicry – we imitate each other’s emotions as a way of expressing support and caring and, even more basically, as a way of communicating with each other.
  • Emotion goes inside-out. Emotional contagion, though, suggests that the opposite is also true.
    • If I can make you smile, I can make you happy.
  • Educational experts describe television as “low involvement”.
  • The average American is now exposed to 254 different commercial message in a day, up nearly 25% since the mid-1970s, according to the New York-based firm Media Dynamics.
  • We don’t have to understand what we are looking at, or absorb what we are seeing, in order to keep watching.
    • We watch when we are stimulated by all the whizzes and bangs of the medium. And we look away, or turn the channel, when we are bored.
  • Perceptual span – human eye is capable of focusing on only a very small area at one time.
  • Broken Windows theory argues that crime is the inevitable result of disorder.
    • Minor, seemingly insignificant quality-of-life, are Tipping Point for violent crime.
  • There are specific situations so powerful that they can overwhelm our inherent predispositions.
    • A trait like honesty is considerably influenced by the situation.
    • The convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behavior.
    • All of results strongly suggest that our environment plays as big – if not bigger – a role as heredity in shaping personality and intelligence.
    • We are actually powerfully influenced by our surroundings, our immediate context, and the personalities of those around us.
  • Fundamental Attribution Error – when it comes to interpreting other people’s behavior, human beings invariably make the mistake of overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits and underestimating the importance of the situation and context.
    • There is something in all of us that makes us instinctively want to explain the world around us in terms of people’s essential attributes.
    • We do this because we are a lot more attuned to personal cues than contextual cues.
  • The reason that most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment.
  • Judith Harris has convincingly argued that peer influence and community influence are more important than family influence in determining how children turn out.
  • Once we are part of a group, we are all susceptible to peer pressure and social norms.
    • Peer pressure is much more powerful than a concept of a boss – people want to live up to what is expected of them.
  • If you want to bring about a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured.
  • Small, close-knit groups have the power to magnify the epidemic potential of a message or idea.
  • Man evolved to feel strongly about few people, short distances, and relatively brief intervals of time; and these are still the dimensions of life that are important to him. – S.L. Washburn, Evolutionary Biologist
  • Brains evolve, they get bigger, in order to handle the complexities of larger social groups.
  • Even a relatively small increase in the size of a group creates a significant additional social and intellectual burden.
  • The Magic of 150– the figure 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us.
    • At this size, orders can be implemented and unruly behavior controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct man-to-man contacts.
    • What happens when you get big is that the group starts, just on its own, to form a sort of clan.
    • Examples: Gore AssociatesHutterite
  • Wegner argues that when people know each other well, they create an implicit joint memory system – a transactive memory system – which is based on an understanding about who is best suited to remember what kinds of things.
    • Relationship development is often understood as a process of mutual self-disclosure.
  • In order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.
  • What Mavens and Connectors and Salesmen do to an idea in order to make it contagious is to alter it in such a way that extraneous detail are dropped and others are exaggerated so that the message itself comes to acquire a deeper meaning.
  • Contagiousness is in larger part a function of the messenger. Stickiness is primarily a property of the message.
  • What must underlie successful epidemics, in the end, is a bedrock belief that change is possible, that people can radically transform their behavior or belief in the face of right kind of impetus.
  • When people are overwhelmed with information and develop immunity to traditional forms of communication, they turn instead for advice and information to the people in their lives whom they respect, admire, and trust.
  • Connectors are the sorts of people who don’t need to be found. They make it their business to find you. But Mavens need to be found through Maven traps.

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