I’ve gotten so spoiled that I have to have Malcolm Gladwell read his books to me [in true groupie mode, we not only have the audible.com download, turns out we also own two copies of Tipping, including one that's actually been signed by Gladwell!]. As this is the last of his oeuvre (I listened to them in backwards order of when they were published; I was a late groupie), I have to say, I’m rather sad. And not a little impatient for his next title. So hurry up, already, Malcolm!
Once again, as with his other two books, timing is everything … I happened to start listening to Tipping just as the H1N1 flu virus (don’t disparage the little piggies!) was just making headlines. Media coverage about the swine flu pandemic, to use Gladwell’s theory, had just tipped. [Ironically – and thankfully – the spread of the actual disease has not.] You couldn’t turn on the radio, TV, or computer without some reference to the porcine flu. And flu is exactly one of the examples with which Gladwell starts Tipping. Uncanny how his books just appear in my hands (or on my iPod, more accurately) at exactly the right moment!
Gladwell has an amazing way of explaining incredibly complex ideas with clarity and simplicity – and he does so all the while telling some really compelling stories. In his memorable debut, he introduces us his “three rules of epidemics”: 1. that you need connectors (people who know people), mavens (people who know a lot), and salesman (people who know how to effortlessly impart what they know) on your side; 2. that your idea has to have a stickiness factor; and 3. that context really matters.
From Hush Puppies to Airwalks, from Paul Revere to Rebecca Wells’ Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, from Sesame Street to Blue’s Clues, from New York City crime to Micronesian teenage suicide, from syphilis to smoking, Gladwell explains step by step how epidemics of all kinds started and tipped. And ultimately, he makes us understand that “[in] a world dominated by isolation and immunity, understanding these principles of word of mouth is more important than ever.” Amen to that.
Published: 2000, 2002 (paperback with added afterword)