The title of this blog was adopted from a book written about a dozen years ago called The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The book by Malcolm Gladwell was first published in 2000. He defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, and the boiling point.”

The book seeks to explain and describe the sociological changes that impact everyday life. Gladwell states, “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do.” He describes the “three “agents of change” in the tipping points of epidemics.

The 80/20 Principle

The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts. According to Gladwell, economists call this the 80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the ‘work’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants.”These people are described in the following ways:

  • Connectors are the people who know large numbers of people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. Their ability to span many different worlds is based on a combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.
  • Mavens are “information specialists”, or “people we rely upon to connect us with new information.” They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people’s problems, generally by solving his own. Mavens start “word-of-mouth epidemics” due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.
  • Salesmen are “persuaders”, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them. Salesmen use non-verbal cues, including a eye contact, head nod and other cultural rhythms to communicate to and influence others.

The Pace of Technology

What Gladwell does not discuss is the incredible impact the Tipping Point has on the adoption of new technology. Consider the tipping point concepts applied to concepts such as the Internet (70’s), PC’s (80’s), Cell phones (90’s), and in the past ten years an explosion of products and services including iPhone, iPad, Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Early adopters, connectors, mavens and salesmen have enabled all of these technologies to spread at an epidemic or viral pace.