Tipping Point

Today we conclude the re-read portion our tour through Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point by tackling both the conclusion and the afterword. The Tipping Point is a theory that viral change—epidemics, in Gladwell’s word—can be caused and shaped by few actions and people. The Law of the Few tells us that connectors, mavens and salespeople can affect whether or not a concept, idea or movement moves across the tipping point and becomes an epidemic.


Gladwell identifies two major lessons in the conclusion.  The first lesson is that starting an epidemic requires concentrating resources on a few key areas. This is the Law of the Few. As a reminder, the Law of the Few describes how connectors, mavens and salespeople use their ability to link and network with others to reach beyond any normal individual.  As change agents, we will explore the idea of targeting the few to generate change in next week’s final thoughts on The Tipping Point. However, recognize that a shotgun approach to change very rarely catches fire, and—if it does—probably only by accident.

One note that I found especially interesting in the conclusion was the discussion of band-aid solutions.  Gladwell defined band-aid solutions as focusing on a very small or constrained solution. Having participated in more than a few meetings to identify solutions to problems, I can tell you that someone who describes a solution as a Band-Aid solution does so derisively. However, The Tipping Point argues that a Band-Aid solution focusing on the few is actually a very effective solution. Gladwell describes this type of solution as generating an impact with minimum effort, time and cost; we might call a Band-Aid solution a minimum viable solution (MVS).

The second lesson is that our cognitive biases shape how we see the world. This is not surprising, but our biases cause us to assume that small changes can not have big effects. Our intuition flies in the face of the theory of The Tipping Point.  

One of the most important aspects of creating a change epidemic is an underlying belief that change can happen. Without that underlying belief, it’s probably nearly impossible to marshal the resources to look for the few needed to make the connections and to package the work such that it becomes sticky. People who believe the change is possible can change the behavior of those around them and then have those people change those around them in a widening wave of change.


One of the most interesting ideas in the afterword is the idea of immunity.  In the internet world’s environment of information abundance—where pushing out more information is perceived as creating power—people get tired and stop listening.  Change agents need to recognize that repeating the same message causes those they are trying to affect to shut down and stop listening. We become immune to a particular channel. I think about how I use my cell phone.  Once upon a time, I looked forward to every new number that popped up on the screen. Now I don’t necessarily answer every call because of the number of spam phone calls. Abundance has generated a type of immunity to messages reaching me using that channel.  Gladwell suggests that the cure for immunity is finding mavens, connectors, and salesman and using them to break through the clutter: the law of the few.

Previous entries:

Week 8 – Case Study: Suicide, Smoking, and The Search For The Unsticky Cigarettehttps://bit.ly/2FlMaCQ

Week 7 –  Case Study Rumors, Sneakers, and The Power of Translationhttps://bit.ly/2TSBtRs

Week 6: – Power of Context (Part Two)https://bit.ly/2tZQ92O

Week 5 – Power of Context (Part One)  – https://bit.ly/2GVxGwx

Week 4 – The Stickiness Factorhttps://bit.ly/2GuSJ96

Week 3 – The Law of the Fewhttps://bit.ly/2Buau46

Week 2 – The Three Rules of Epidemicshttps://bit.ly/2DQnRNV

Week 1 – Plans and Introductionhttps://bit.ly/2S8PPwc