Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Tipping Point

Just finished reading this excellent book by Malcolm Gladwell. For once, it's not fiction and it's not crime. It's a cross between marketing, psychology and chaos mathematics, although there's not an equation or mathematical concept in sight.

James Gleick's Chaos was an in-depth study of the mathematics and the history behind chaos, the simple idea that little things can make a big difference. The Tipping Point is a more easily understandable and practical exploration of the same idea.

The difference between the two books is similar to the difference between learning about computers and learning how to use them.

Gladwell deals with subjects like teenage suicide and smoking, crime in New York, Sesame Street and, of course, shoes. Somehow it manages to tie all of these together under the umbrella of epidemics. The idea that little things can make a big difference is gently hammered home by each case study.

But this is no dry book at all. It's very well written and the words glide off the page. By the end of it you can't help thinking about everyone and everything around you in a slightly different light.

Which person is a Maven? Or a Salesman, or a Connector?

What's the context, what's the stickiness factor?

What am I talking about?

Go and read the book. It's one of the few essential texts on popular science that doesn't read like a textbook at all.

Seriously. Read it. Be Tipped.


Stephen Blackmoore said...

I've been meaning to pick this one up for a while. Read Gleick's Chaos when it came out. There's something about the unseen and counterintuitive that's always fascinated me.

Have you read Guns, Germs & Steel or Freakonomics? I think there's a body of work out there that people should really read to get a sense of how things work on a sub-strata level. Like James Burke's Connections.

Daniel Hatadi said...

I'll have to check out those titles. For some reason, Freakonomics as a title is a turn-off for me, and that's why I haven't bothered with it as yet.

In the past, I've spent months alternating between books on Zen and books on quantum physics or the like. I have this lofty ambition of wanting to understand the nature of all reality.

That's not too much to ask for, is it? :)

Stephen Blackmoore said...

For some reason, this puts me in mind of that scene in The Razor's Edge (The really bad movie adaptation, not the book) where Bill Murray has been hoarding these profound books of wisdom and finally, while he's freezing to death in a snowstorm, starts ripping out the pages to build a fire.

I've always suspected that the ultimate answers are a lot more simple than we think they are.

jamie ford said...

I going to have to pick it up. I just finished Blink this weekend by the same author. A great, evocative read.