Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tipping Point

It’s good to be back. I was extremely busy at work and decided that since I had just reached 100 posts to take a week off from posting. I traveled to Lubbock this week and watched A&M snag their first win there since 1993. In between the game and fanfare I finished up Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

The book attempts to perpetuate the idea that it’s a series of little things that eventually add up to have a significant impact. For example, in the case of Boston STDs the spread increases based on the season, vaccinations offered, etc. Another fact studied is that there is a magical number of when things change. For example, Gore-Tex has found that if their plants contain more than 150 people then communication between departments break down. I couldn’t help but recall From Good to Great and how it mentioned the idea of how great companies are created by a series of little changes rather than one big change. A culture is established step by step.

The idea that stuck with me the most was the idea of how information gets moved between people. Gladwell contends that there are three types of people that have significant influence on how we give and receive information: connectors, mavens, and salesman.

Connectors are individuals who know a lot of people and are connected to many social networks. You don’t have to search these people out; connectors find you. They are extremely adept at maintaining many loose relationships. If a connector is fond of an idea they can generate buzz simply by the number of people they come into contact with. They are valued for their ability to link people together. Gladwell contends that contrary to popular belief, each individual is not linked to roughly the same amount of people, but rather it’s more of a hub and spoke system with connectors linking us all.

Mavens are purveyors of information on specific subjects. A maven is a person that offers expertise in an area. People look to them to offer value when making a decision. They also will be the ones to help you install said object. Mavens are valued for their ability to decipher information in a particular area. If you need a car you talk to a car maven before you make your decision. They can tell you the best price, best time to buy, car details, etc.

Salesmen are the most easily understood. They are the individuals who can close people on a particular idea or trend. They come off as friendly and helpful and their excitement is inspiring. A salesman wants to help those around them and very often can prompt action. Salesmen are needed to encourage others to try or pick up on great ideas. They perpetuate change.

Which One Are You

The value in this book is understanding how you can add to others. Most of us are some combination of the three above.

When analyzing myself I believe that I a maven connector. I am very good at finding expert opinions on lots of information and have done lots of different things. Therefore, if people ask me for activities to try; I can generally find something that they will enjoy doing. I am especially adept at restaurants. If someone gives me the reason they want to eat out I will find a place with good food and an atmosphere conducive to the occasion. As one of my friends mentioned I am an encyclopedia of experiences.

How to Use It
The biggest revelation for me was that we are not all the same. We don’t need to all strive to be better at everything, but rather find where we excel and offer that value to others. I tend to want to be self reliant and do everything on my own, but I need to understand that others are more gifted and enjoy things that I don’t. As human beings we have the tendency to be ego-centric and incorrectly assume that everyone acts and feels as we do.

Is it Worth Reading
If the subjects above interest you than you would enjoy the book. There are many examples of social experiments and case studies which I found very interesting; though this type of material is not for everyone. If you are fascinated by human behavior and what causes trends, diseases, or ideas to spread than this book is for you.

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