Gladwell uses the term ‘social epidemic’ to explain the result of an idea taking hold, gaining momentum and bursting in popularity. He gives examples of successful social epidemics and suggestions of what we can do to start our own social epidemic.
The Law of the Few
The success of the project comes down to a driven few, particular three types of people; ‘the Connectors’ who have a wide network and bring people together, also known as the social butterfly. They will spread the word and make the introductions. The trend follower and setter is known as ‘the Maven’, they know what’s going on and like to be the first with the new gadget or outfit. Of course any idea or product needs great ‘Salesmen’, they make the third aspect of the law of the few. Most of us may recognise this activity of the law of the few as an expression of the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule.
The Stickiness Factor
Just as the title suggests, the stickiness factor is the ability for an idea to stick. When an idea sticks it really takes hold, people are talking about it, they think about it and they remember it long enough to tell others about it. It is memorable. Gladwell uses the popularity of the children’s show Sesame Street as an example.
It’s all about the right time, right place. Gladwell believes that epidemics will occur when the environment is influencing the idea or product. Many examples of the power of context are given, including crime reduction in New York. Gladwell also discusses a rule of 150 which states that the maximum number of social relationships an individual can have is 150. I need to increase my numbers!
The tipping point arrives when all three come into play and take an idea to a point that it takes on a life of its own and spreads at great speed.
Overall this book is a great read with numerous examples of case studies that show the tipping point occurring in many situations.