Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Tipping Point

‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell was a book brought to my attention by my Design Studies module. In the book Gladwell suggests everything has a tipping point a moment where something turns into an epidemic.

He goes on to explain the three rules of an epidemic; The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor and The Power of Context.

The Law of the Few suggests that there are three types of people who contribute to the tipping point; Connectors, Salesmen and Mavens. These are the three types of people you want to know if you’re trying to launch a new product or want something to take off. Connectors are the people who know lots of people and keep in touch with them. Salesmen are naturally charismatic and are very persuasive. Last but not least are Mavens those people who can remember how much they paid for that sandwich two weeks ago down to the last pence! Mavens go out of their way to tell people about bargains and amazing places they have been.

The Stickiness Factor explains how to make something memorable. Making something memorable will make it more popular, therefore keeping an epidemic going. Gladwell discusses Sesame Street and Blues Clues in this chapter, showing how a television programme can educate children and make what they’ve heard stick.

The Power of Context part one and part two are probably my favourite two chapters just because I found it really interesting that the size of a group can make or break a situation. Or that by changing someone’s perceptions of the world around them can make them a good guy or a bad guy.

It’s a very interesting book and Malcolm Gladwell relates his message with; incidents that have happened, television programmes and advertising campaigns, which makes it easy to follow. I have spoken about it so much that most of my family are waiting to borrow it. It’s quite funny it’s almost like I’ve created a mini epidemic with ‘The Tipping Point’ book at home.


Our first assignment for Design Studies was to create a mind map on the book ‘The Tipping Point’.



We also had to take a specific theme from the book and create another mind map. The theme I chose was the rise and fall of New York City crime, this is from chapter four ‘The Power of Context Part one’. I chose this theme as I found it fascinating that the environment around you can affect how you behave and the type of person you are. I thought it was incredible how New York managed to decrease their crime rate simply by cleaning up the city.




Below is a bibliography with the sources used in my second mind map.


Gotez, B. (1984) Subway Vigilante

Gotez shot four men on the subway after they told him to hand over $5. He said in a telephone call to his neighbour “In a situation, like this you’re in a combat situation.”



Bratton, W. (1998) The Turnaround: How America’s Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic. New York: Random House

Bratton explains what he saw in the subways of New York. The turnstiles were purposely jammed so he had to enter through a slam gate where a “scruffy looking character” demanded tokens from the riders. Meanwhile another man was trying to suck jammed coins out of the slots. He shows that the power of context does affect everyone even those who want to pay their way, as Bratton himself had no option but to use the slam gate.



Wilson, James, Q. and Kelling, G. (1982) Broken Windows.
Boston: The Atlantic Monthly.

Wilson and Kelling argue that crime is the result of disorder. People who commit crimes will see a rundown area and assume that it will be easier to commit crimes there as they will think no one in that area cares. This links with Gladwell’s theory ‘The Power of Context’ the worse an environment the worse people will act. As New York City became dedicated to its cleanup crime fell.



Gunn, D. (1984) Subway Director

Gunn believed graffiti was symbolic of the systems collapse. To create a better New York with higher morale and rebuild the subway system you had to get rid of the graffiti first. This shows he was a believer in the ‘Broken Windows Theory’ as well.



Zimbardo, P. (1992) The Stanford Prison Experiment. Stanford University.

Zimbardo and his colleagues picked 21 healthy men to take part in their experiment. Half of these men became prison guards they were given uniforms and told to keep order. The other half was the prisoners who were kept in cells and stripped of their identities. The guards fell became strict and as the experiment progressed became sadistic. The experiment had to be called off after six days the intended time was two weeks. This experiment shows that ordinarily calm, pleasant people can change depending on their surroundings or circumstances.



Hartshorne, H and May, M.A. (1928) Studies in the Nature of Character.
New York: Macmillan

Hartshorne and May tested eleven thousand school children between the ages of eight and nine. They did this over several months giving them different types of tests designed to measure honesty. They found that it depends on the situation whether someone will cheat or not.



Darley, J and Batson, D. “From Jerusalem to Jericho”: A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behaviour.
Princeton University: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Darley and Batson asked a group of seminarians to prepare a talk on a biblical theme then walk to a nearby building to present it. On their way they will come across a man slumped in an alley. The experiment is to see who will help him. The experiment was varied as some students were sent on their way they were told that they were late. Others were told they still had time. The words you’re late affected most judgements. Those who may have ordinarily helped were uncompassionate and walked by, showing that the situation can change your character and how you react.

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