Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tipping Point

I re-read one of my favourite books on the weekend. The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. My interest in it is primarily as a marketing/branding book. I view it as a start but not the end on what causes trends. Part of SYNNEX and EMJ's success has been to correctly identify trends. The more I can figure them out, the better we can be. I was going to write my own book review for you but using my best Time Management hat, I found a great one written by Jeliel on Amazon and thought I would share it with you.

"... The Tipping Point, I picked it up and whizzed right through it like a plow to the land. I think that perhaps Gladwell tried to hard to make Blink! A success like The Tipping Point has been.
This is one fantastic book to read and should be read by everyone in my opinion. It would give us all a better insight into human behavior.

This book is about epidemics, not the biological ones like Bird Flu, but the epidemics of human behavior or created by human behavior. But mostly it's about the little things that give birth to an epidemic; these little things are what constitute the tipping point, the point where localized phenomena spreads... quickly.

According to Gladwell there are 3 rules to epidemics rising. The first one is "The Law of the Few" which states that there's a ratio called the 80/20 Principle. This principle says that 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people. The second rule is "The Stickiness Factor". This factor points to information and the types of information that will stay with you, stick with you, like a kick-ass commercial that touched on something for you. The third rule is "The Power of Context" which is all about sensitivity to our surroundings and how it can influence us whether we accept it or not.

In the first rule, "The Law of the Few", Gladwell dissects it into 3 major players, human players; Connectors, mavens and salesmen.

"Connectors" are what I call social addicts. These people thrive on human interaction. They have social power and this is what's needed to bring people together for the impending epidemic.

"Mavens" are the information junkies who actually read the freakin manual, calls the 1-800 number of a company and crosses their T's and dots their I's for them. These are the guys that learn anything they can from a product. These are the guys that can tell you where to get the best deal for whatever you desire to purchase.

The third player is the "Salesman". The name says it all. These salesmen will sell an Eskimo a freezer. Why? Because they have this ability to mind meld with people, get into the proper frame of mind and can get anyone to agree with them, they can convince anyone, therefore sell anything.

Using all this information as a base, Gladwell then goes on to make his case, or cases. He has a formidable power of association where he can link Paul Revere's gallop through New England to warn that the British were coming with the seemingly inexplicable re-popularization of Hush Puppies by a sub-culture of fashion conscious youth looking for the item no one else is wearing. He links together a suicide spree in a country that had never had cases of suicide with teen smoking by pointing that cool people don't act cool, they are cool by acting on poor impulse control.

In the end, an epidemic starts by a few folks who dare to buy the new technology when the prices are still exorbitant, a few folks who live a life of laissez faire and can become Patient Zero for the aids epidemic in North America, like Gaetan Dugas; a French Canadian flight attendant who's promiscuous sex life with thousands of people across North America made him the target of vilification. Good or bad, an epidemic starts with people that dare to try, that dare to leap before looking.

This leads to another set of people, those who will jump in once the daring have done so. These are the ones that bring awareness to the epidemic, which leads to the masses. And before you know it, everyone has an iPod. I only wish that Gladwell could have written this book after the iPod craze to see just how he would treat it. Ipods went from woohoo-another-mp3-player to the must have item in no time flat. It's so popular that entire store walls are dedicated to iPod accessories. That's epidemic, iTunes, most likely the tipping point.

This was another book I just couldn't put down and had to read at every possible free moment I had. Undoubtedly a superior book to his Blink! And it has restored my faith in Gladwell. This book should be one everyone's to-read list. I impatiently anticipate Gladwell's next offering to the Dead Tree Society."

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