Monday, February 1, 2010

The Tipping Point

Here we are at week two. A different book, different genre, different author. This week I read The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a non-fiction book about what makes things "tip", and turn into epidemics. When I say the word 'epidemic' I am not only referring to some kind of flu or virus, but using it as a much broader sense of the word, referring to something that spreads rapidly and extensively affecting many individuals at the same time. This could be anything from a fashion trend, to a message, to the suicide epidemic in Micronesia that Gladwell talks about in one of his chapters.

Gladwell looks at why major changes in our society often happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Ideas, behaviour, messages, and products, he argues, often spread like outbreaks of infectious disease. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a few fare-beaters and graffiti artists fuel a subway crime wave, or a satisfied customer fill the empty tables of a new restaurant. These are social epidemics, and the moment when they take off, when they reach their critical mass, is the Tipping Point.

In The Tipping Point, Gladwell introduces us to the particular personality types who are natural pollinators of new ideas and trends, the people who create the phenomenon of word of mouth. He analyzes fashion trends, smoking, children's television, direct mail and the early days of the American Revolution for clues about making ideas infectious, and how to start and sustain social epidemics.

The Tipping Point is an intellectual adventure story written with an infectious enthusiasm for the power and joy of new ideas. Most of all, it is a road map to change, with a profoundly hopeful message, that one imaginative person applying a well-placed lever can move the world.

This is the kind of book that you have to read at your local cafe or coffee shop. For years I have been going to this little place called Remedy, near Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. Not only do they serve the best homemade Chai Lattes and great Indian food, but it's near a trendy part of town, whose streets are bustling with people from all different walks of life. I love going there to read and being surrounded by so many types of people. You look up and see students cramming for a test, or families sharing a piece of pie after ballet class, or friends talking animatedly about their struggles and achievements in life. It's amazing going to a place where everyone appears so different, but is sharing in the same great experience. When you are surrounded by many different people, the words and ideas that Gladwell is trying to get across about epidemics really begin to come to life. You are able to look up from your book and physically see what he is talking about.

While walking around my favorite two story Chapters store on Whyte Ave, trying to pick out a book, I noticed 'What The Dog Saw'. I picked it up, first intrigued by the title, and then by it's Content. I was going to purchase it before I realized that it was actually the third book that Gladwell had written. Then began my search. Where was the first book? What would it be about, and would it sound just as intriguing? And then I found it! 'The Tipping Point'. Although Gladwell's three books are not a series, I thought it would be best to read them in order, and follow along with his train of thought over the course of the years he was writing theses splendid books. So my tip is to follow suit, and read first 'The Tipping Point', then 'Outliers', followed finally by 'What The Dog Saw'.

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