Behind the Scenes: How to Spread an Idea & The Tipping Point
Recently, I took some books out of the library on marketing and happened upon The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. This book explores the magical moment when an idea, trend, or human behavior crosses a boundary and explodes into something larger than life like a epidemic.
What I like best about The Tipping Point is that Malcolm Gladwell doesn't draw his conclusions based solely on product sales and trends, but analyzes incredibly insightful stories about things like Sesame Street, anti-smoking campaigns, Paul Revere, New York subway graffiti, and breast cancer awareness in an African American community. Even if you're not a business person looking to understand how to connect with your market, The Tipping Point is a great read for understanding how human beings relate to one another and to ideas.
Here are some of the lessons I'm taking away from reading Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point:
One of the factors in creating a tipping point is having the right messengers, which Gladwell calls Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Connectors are those people in your life that are not only a great resource for disseminating information but have also mastered something sociologists call the "weak tie" -- casual social connections. From my understanding of this concept, I am starting to become more aware of the people in my circle who I would call Connectors and am valuing their special talents for keeping me in touch with people I would have never have known otherwise.
Making the practical personal was a point that I almost overlooked in Gladwell's book. Based on an experiment where a researcher tried to influence college students to get tetanus shots by scaring them with dramatic photos, the tipping point didn't happen until a map to the clinic and its hours of operation was added to the booklet. Gladwell proposes that the inclusion of the map was a change in presentation that took an abstract lesson in medical risk and transformed it into a practical and personal piece of advice that made it more memorable and therefore more willing to stick. This slight alteration in the booklet design changed everything, which got me thinking about how often we present abstract concepts and things that people appreciate, but don't know how to fit it into their lives.
Here is another interesting observation, and though it is based around the psychological behavior of children, I wonder if it doesn't also apply to adults. When Sesame Street was creating its first programming, they did a lot of research involving kids and how they interact with the television. Apparently, what they discovered is that children watch television when they understand and turn away when they are confused. It is so subtle, but I'm intrigued by this idea that perhaps what you should be paying attention to most is when people look away for this is when they may not be understanding what you are doing or saying. I'm guessing these would be the crucial times to check for understanding and clarify any points that are not making sense to your audience.
The final gem that had an impact on me was in reference to John Wesley and the Methodist movement, which grew to epidemic proportions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Gladwell proposes that John Wesley realized that if you want to bring about significant change in people that would then go on to impact others, you needed to create a community where new beliefs can be practiced and nurtured.