Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point discusses societal change in the form of a ‘tipping point,’ wherein social factors and memes coalesce into a large, substantial change that alters the way society or economics works. Gladwell emphasizes three rules of epidemics, catalysts for change which provide significant shifts in economic and social culture. First there is the “Law of the Few,” where most of the work is performed by fewer people; this is known as the ’80/20′ Principle. This name is derived from the idea that 20 percent of the people in a situation will do 80% of the work. These 20 percent include: connectors, who provide a linking experience between people of the world, and connect people socially; salesmen, who persuade people to believe what they say, and so on.
Secondly, there is the stickiness factor, which is described as the permeability of a message – just how easily it can get stuck in people’s heads. For example, Gladwell describes the evolution of children’s television, and how shows like Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues used loosely-defined ‘stickiness’ to educate children in a way that worked better than had been done before.
Finally, Gladwell describes the power of context, where the environment is what determines people’s behavior and habits. For example, 1990s New York City saw a downturn in crime thanks to small but significant improvements on the appearance of neighborhoods; when the city looked better, people behaved better. These ideas are the basis for Gladwell’s ‘tipping points’ in societies; context, ‘stickiness’ and the ‘few’ are significant factors in driving social and economic change in a modern society.
Gladwell, Malcolm. The tipping point: how little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000. Print.