THE TIPPING POINT: HOW LITTLE THINGS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE by Malcolm Gladwell
|You might think that the two months it took me to read The Tipping Point means I struggled with the writing or the content or the length or something similar. In fact, the delay had nothing to do with the book and everything to do with myself and life’s circumstances. The Tipping Point is a very good book, fully engaging and quite provocative. I truly enjoyed it and am excited to read the other Gladwell title that sits on my shelf. What began as such an intriguing premise evolved into an even more compelling argument with each and every anecdote and case study. From Paul Revere to Blue’s Clues to the teenage smoking epidemic, Gladwell makes a strong case for the power of influential people and word of mouth, and on several points I actually found myself rethinking long-held beliefs simply on the basis of his supposition. True, this is not light reading, but it’s worth the time and open mind one should bring to it.
Passages of Note
The Law of the Few, p. 53
Was he actually interesting? Who knows? The point is that Lois found him interesting, because, in some way, she finds everyone interesting. Weisberg, one of her friends told me, “always says — ‘Oh, I’ve met the most wonderful person. You are going to love her,’ and she is as enthused about this person as she was about the first person she has met and you know what, she’s usually right.” Another of her friends told me that, “Lois sees things in you that you don’t even see in yourself,” which is another way of saying the same thing, that by some marvelous quirk of nature, Lois and the other people like her have some instinct that helps them relate to the people they meet. When Weisberg looks out at the world or when Roger Horchow sits next to you on an airplane, they don’t see the same world that the rest of us see. They see possibility, and while most of us are busily choosing whom we would like to know, and rejecting the people who don’t look right or who live out near the airport, or whom we haven’t seen in sixty-five years, Lois and Roger like them all.
The Stickiness Factor, p. 102
If you take these two studies together — the toys study and the editing study — you reach quite a radical conclusion about children and television. Kids don’t watch when they are stimulated and look away when they are bored. They watch when they understand and look away when they are confused. If you are in the business of educational television, this is a critical difference. It means if you want to know whether — and what — kids are learning from a TV show, all you have to do is to notice what they are watching. And if you want to know what kids aren’t learning, all you have to do is notice what they aren’t watching. Preschoolers are so sophisticated in their viewing behavior that you can determine the stickiness of children’s programming by simple observation.
The Stickiness Factor, p. 126
“If you think about the world of a preschooler, they are surrounded by stuff they don’t understand—things that are novel. So the driving force for a preschooler is not a search for novelty, like it is with older kids, it’s a search for understanding and predictability,” says Daniel Anderson, who worked with Nickelodeon in designing Blue’s Clues. “For younger kids, repetition is really valuable. They demand it. When they see a show over and over again, they not only are understanding it better, which is a form of power, but just by predicting what is going to happen, I think they feel a real sense of affirmation and self-worth. And Blue’s Clues doubles that feeling, because they also feel like they are participating in something. They feel like they are helping Steve.”
Of course, kids don’t always like repetition. Whatever they are watching has to be complex enough to allow, upon repeated exposure, for deeper and deeper levels of comprehension. At the same time, it can’t be so complex that the first time around it baffles the children and turns them off.
The Power of Context (Part One), p. 163
Character, then, isn’t what we think it is or, rather, what we want it to be. It isn’t a stable, easily identifiable set of closely related traits, and it only seems that way because of a glitch in the way our brains are organized. Character is more like a bundle of habits and tendencies and interests, loosely bound together and dependent, at certain times, on circumstance and context. The reason most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment. I have a lot of fun at dinner parties. As a result, I throw a lot of dinner parties and my friends see me there and think that I’m fun. But if I couldn’t have lots of dinner parties, if my friends instead tended to see me in lots of different situations over which I had little or no control — like, say, faced with four hostile youths in a filthy, broken-down subway — they probably wouldn’t think of me as fun anymore.