Book Review: The Tipping Point

I recently finished reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. With my thesis focusing on understanding behavior change, I thought it was an appropriate read and I was hoping to gain an understanding of what creates a “tipping point.”

While I was hoping for more of a “how to” approach, this book is more of a “listen to this.” Mr. Gladwell doesn’t give explicit instructions on how to create a “sticky” concept or how to leverage those personalities that seem to be connected to everyone. He does, however, deliver a book full of anecdotes that share stories of incidents that reached a tipping point leading to some sort of change in people or behavior.

Relevant? Yes. Informative? Not-so-much. There are several concepts within the book that resonate with my work but my personal favorite is the power of context. There is a portion of the book that discusses the broken-window theory and how New York City was able to completely change the once run-down, unappealing transit system by simply removing graffiti and cracking down on fare evasion. This was enough to change the environment of the transit system to offer a more pleasant ride for commuters.

This is especially relevant in my previous work facilitating workshops. I have taken certain, small details into account when designing facilitation cards, story boards, presentations, and even spent a considerable amount of time deciding what time of day the workshop is scheduled. These all play into setting the context of the work and help determine the effectiveness of the workshop. While most people may think of this as just being picky, I think of it as being considerate.

Malcolm Gladwell may not have delivered the type of detailed insight I was looking for, but he did deliver relevant anecdotes that help explain theories around tipping points. I would strongly suggest this book to anyone who is designing for people.

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