Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Malcolm Gladwell
Yesterday I was in Home Sense looking for a jar to brew my second batch of Kombucha. They didn’t have one but I browsed their book shelf and saw The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. As I was about to buy it, it hit me that I might already own it. They had three copies so I could come back. True enough there it was sitting on my book shelf.
One of the findings in his book that surprised me was a sociologist at the University of Illinois has looked at the number of role models in a community – the professionals, managers, teachers whom the Census Bureau has defined as “high status” – has on the lives of teenagers in the same neighborhood. He found little difference in pregnancy rates or school drop-out rates in neighborhoods between 40 and 5 %, the problem exploded as the high-status workers fall just 2.2 percentage points – from 5.6% to 3.4% – drop-out rates more than double. The rate of pregnancy which had hardly moved up at all – nearly doubled. We assume, intuitively that neighborhoods and social problems decline in some kind of steady progression. At the tipping point, schools can lose control of their students, and family life can disintegrate all at once.
If what he says is true then tipping points are very important but we are unlikely to know where the tipping point is. How much negativity in our life – is too much? Where is the tipping point in our health? What are the tipping points in our society that move us up which we like or down which we don’t want at all?
What are the few things we absolutely have to stay away from to have a good life, because they tip us into negativity? What are the decisions in our life that are the tipping point for what kind of life we’ll lead? What is the tipping point that makes something become the “new thing?”
My sister brought me the starter for kombucha a few days ago. Why am I brewing kombucha now? It has been brewed for thousands of years by different cultures. What is the tipping point that brought it into my kitchen, now?
The idea that epidemics can rise or fall in one dramatic moment – is the most important, because it is the principle that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does. Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell tells us there is a law of the few he calls them connectors, mavens, and salesmen these are the people usually at the center of any kind of epidemic be it a positive or negative one.
In the late 1960’s psychologist, Stanly Milgram conducted an experiment to find an answer to what is known as the small world problem. The problem is this: how are human beings connected? Do we all belong to separate worlds, operating simultaneously but autonomously, so that the links between any two people in the world are few and distant? Or, are we all bound up together in a grand interlocking web?
Milgram’s idea was to test this question with a chain letter. He got the name of 160 people who live in Omaha, Nebraska, and mailed each of them a packet. In the packet was the name of a stockbroker who worked in Boston and lived in Sharon, Massachusetts. Each person was instructed to write his or her name on the packet and send it on to a friend or acquaintance who they thought would get the packet closer to the stockbroker. The idea was when the packet finally arrived at the stockbroker’s house Milgram could look at the list of those whose hands it had gone through to see how connected someone chose at random was to someone in another part of the country. Milgram found that most of the packets reached the stockbroker in five or six steps. This experiment is where we get the concept of six degrees of separation.
This is a book that makes you look at things differently, both the good and the bad. What will make society better? What will make society worse? What can be the tipping points in our own life? What is the small thing that will give us big results? What is the big thing that gives us small result? Are we focusing on the right things? Do we know what the right things to focus on are?
We have, in short, somehow become convinced that we need to tackle the whole problem, all at once. But the truth is that we don’t. We only need to find the stickiness Tipping Points.” Malcolm Gladwell
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The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Paperback – Jan 7 2002
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