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12 november 2018 | Henny Portman

The tipping point – How little things can make a big difference is written by Malcolm Gladwell. In this book we get a multitude of examples in which the author shows what it means to reach a tipping point. If we try to sell an idea, attitude or product, we want or need to help our listeners, our customers, our employees. We try to change them in some small yet critical respect, to convince them, to persuade them to reach a critical mass so that the goal comes closer. And that can be the acceptance of an idea, a changed attitude or the increased sales of a product.

To achieve the change the author uses the three rules of epidemics: the law of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context.

The law of the few shows that we need both connectors, mavens and salesmen. The connectors can bring the world and know lots of people. Whoever you want to reach, in a maximum of six steps, you can reach that person from your network. The mavens are accumulators of knowledge and brokers in information. Mavens are solvers of both their own problems and those of others. You use salesmen to persuade others where the word of mouth is still the most important form of human communication.

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To penetrate the message, the product, or attitude (The stickiness factor) a messenger is needed that brings a memorable and contagious message. The message or advice must be practical as well as personal.

Finally, the power of the context shows that the sensitiveness to the message depends on change and the times at which and the places where they occur. Within a group of up to 150 people (the Dunbar number) it is possible to know everyone. To create an contagious movement you often have to create many small movements first (the paradox of the epidemic). The theory of broken windows can be used here too. A (social) epidemic or event can be tipped, by tinkering with the smallest details of the immediate environment.

Conclusion: The book reads smoothly and offers appealing examples of (social) epidemics, suicide, smoking, Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, the Ya-Ya sisters, the rise and fall of the crime in New York. The author knows how to reach a turning point in a striking way and shows that one creative person can change the world. While reading, it becomes clear why this book is recommended literature within SAFe to support the tipping point at the beginning of the SAFe implementation roadmap.


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