Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Tipping Point

Audio Book
Read by the author, Malcolm Gladwell

Mr. Gladwell has been helping me pass the hours as I am painting. Although his voice takes some getting used to, the power of the message was perfect. "How little things can make a big difference" is a great reminder as I tape, repair even the smallest of cracks and catch the littlest drips. 

The Tipping Point aims to answer two questions, "Why is it that some ideas or behaviors or products start epidemics and others don't? And what can we do to deliberately start and control positive epidemics of our own?"

  Gladwell speaks to social epidemics and shares a  number of examples - an unexplainable overnight renewal of popularity in Hush Puppie shoes; a tragic rise in teen suicide in the small nation of Micronesia; a surprising decrease in the New York City crime rate. Gladwell uses all of these examples and more to illustrate what he defines as the three principles of social epidemics: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context.

Powerful points for me...
** In epidemics, little changes can somehow have big effects.
** And, in epidemics, change happens, not gradually, but at one dramatic moment. The name given to that one dramatic moment, when everything can change all at once, is called the Tipping Point.

** Environment can truly be more important than we ever recognized in determining how someone will 'turn out.'

** Character isn't what we think it is, or rather what we want it to be. It isn't a stable set of closely related traits - it seems that way because of a glitch in the ways our brains are organized. Character rather is a bundle of traits kept together by context (our habits.) The reason that most of us have a consistent characters is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment.

The Tipping Point is the story of the discovery Gladwell made as he began to research the HIV epidemic when he was a writer for The Washington Post. He began comparing the same traits of a medical epidemic to social epidemics. He came up with the simple idea that “Contagiousness [i.e., the epidemic] ... is an unexpected property of all kinds of things, and we have to remember that, if we are to recognize and diagnose epidemic change.”  Gladwell uses numerous examples to illustrate this idea—Paul Revere’s ride, the Hush Puppies trend, the popularity of Sesame Street, the rise of the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to bestseller status, the decline of crime in New York, the emergence of the Methodist Church, the Columbia Record Club treasure hunt, teen suicide and smoking, among others to demonstrate that contagiousness is not just a metaphor; it has real relevance in every portion of our lives.

I've read the book in pieces before but found listening to it really cemented the ideas in my brain. I've been able to mull it over more, share it in conversation with friends and family, and think of how I can apply what I have heard. The only hard part was wanting to write down some of these thoughts while I had a paint roller in my hand!!

Thanks Mr. Gladwell, we're almost done with those walls.

1 comment:

alisonwonderland said...

I haven't read any of Gladwell's books (yet), but this one sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Yay for audiobooks to "read" while doing necessary tasks!