Book Review: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point

I already started reviewing this book a few posts back and wanted to give you a more complete rundown now that I finished it. While it started out a bit dated with the Hush Puppies example of something that tipped, and his Paul Revere example of a Connector and Maven sounded a bit Palinesque, the book was worth reading until the end. I suppose that since I have been living outside the US, I appreciate more global examples and this book is very US-centric in that aspect. Nonetheless, the idea that there are particularly “sticky” ideas and carriers of those ideas in the form of Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen so that they “Cross the Chasm” is not revolutionary but still insightful. That ideas are highly sensitive to their context is also obvious but the examples here abound. I particularly liked the explanation of Sesame Street psychology and it was thanks to this book that I discovered Blue’s Clues (like I said, I have been out of the US a LONG time) which is now a favorite of my kids. The parallel between teen suicide in Micronesia and teen smoking in the US was a bit of a stretch and as he offered a possible factor to minimize teen smoking, he wasn’t as generous for the kids in the Pacific. I think that the steady rise in cigarette prices has had a far more devastating effect on tobacco sales than his idea of reducing toxins in the cigarettes. Another curious side-story here: his explanation for the drop in crime in New York in the 80’s (freshly painted subways and fixed windows) is totally different than that of Levitt in Freakonomics (legalized abortion), so having read both, it is hard to know whom to believe…

What I came away from the book with was the conviction that communication is everything and that the very first slide or two of a presentation MUST absolutely create that “stickiness” for the idea to get transmitted. The other problem, however, I have is that with Facebook, Google, and Apple, each has definitely tipped but it would be hard to pin these to particular Connectors, Mavens or Salesmen. Perhaps, Apple can be explained by Mavens like myself using Macs but then, their astounding success is far more related to iTunes and the iPod and iPhone and I don’t see CMS playing here. Similarly, Facebook just came out of nowhere 7 years ago to dominate the internet. Google was just simple and incredibly humble in their pitch (selling words for cents a piece) but with earth-shattering results. If I may, Angry Birds in ONLY TWO YEARS has also tipped – $1B IPO planned for 2012 based on ONE SINGLE GAME! – but this was purely a word-of-mouth / Apple Store phenom. So, is there a new dynamic that needs to be afterword-ed on to The Tipping Point? What is the special chemistry for Rovio that made its game bigger than, say, Plants vs. Zombies or (one of my favorites) Infinity? Who were the Connectors here? Reviewers on the App Store? I suppose we hard-core iPhone addicts are the Mavens but the Salesman is merely the App Store? What is the lesson we can pull out of this? Perhaps we need another five to seven years to get a retrospective view for analysis. Or was Steve Jobs all three? Even then, that would partially explain Apple and Rovio’s success but how about Google and Facebook? It is certainly a brave new world.

So, here’s an idea, I’ll write the sequel to The Tipping Point in 2015 for its 25th anniversary. Unless, of course, Malcolm beats me to it 🙂

What do you think?


About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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2 Responses to Book Review: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

  1. Ann says:

    I stopped by your blog today.

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