The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell writes for The Washington Post and The New Yorker Magazine. His best-selling Tipping Point (TP) analyses the processes by which some products, ideas, fads, politicians, charities, etc., struggle to gain popularity and have marginal success or fail, while others cross the threshold and take the marketplace by storm.

While there is, no doubt, considerable merit buried within these pages, its premises, for the most part, are grounded in gimmicks (“connectors”, “mavens”, “the stickiness factor”, “blue clues”, “the educational virus”, “magic numbers”, “sneakers”). To compound the cuteness of such arcane terminologies and their attendant thought processes, the prose is “cool”, “hip” and a predictable step or two above street slang. If you really want to read dozens of pages of abstruse case histories that chronicle the creation of one successful advertisement, or, in the unlikely event that you can find one example that is close to something that you’re trying to develop, then, this may well be the book for you. If not, TP, despite its best-selling status as an “in” book, offers little more than common sense presented in a very common, and often trite, way.

The author’s “Conclusion” advises the reader to (1) focus hard on the subject to be promoted, (2) test various approaches and (3) “believe”. This reader was looking for data that was somewhat more profound, probative and better connected to personal basics and, as such, ended as befuddled as at the outset. The book itself seems a gimmick that offers a convincing demonstration of its veracity; i.e., to advance a book of this caliber to the stature of Best Seller, on any list, is a tribute indeed to the author (and to the promotional skills of The Washington Post, where he is Chief of the New York Bureau, and to the New Yorker Magazine, for whom he also writes). Next subject, please . . .