Book Review: The Tipping Point

An instant classic and Amazon best seller, The Tipping Point is one of Malcolm Gladwell‘s signature publications. As an urgent care leadership team, we read this book to try to help us create a better marketing plan and organizational culture. It has many other important applications in both marketing and business.

The Tipping Point unpacks the familiar diffusion of innovations theory. Gladwell asks and answers an important question: What makes epidemics (social or otherwise) tip and spread beyond the innovators and early adopters?

The answer is that epidemics tend to have three rules that they share in common:

  1. The law of the few, which includes discussion of connectors, mavens, and salespeople
  2. The stickiness factor
  3. The power of context

The Tipping Point describes these three rules in detail, providing many examples (i.e. connectors has a great section on the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”) from pop culture, news, and human psychology.

The important takeaways from this book are the lessons in understanding how things “go viral” and spread quickly. As a leader, I applied Gladwell’s rules in efforts to promote a culture of positive and consistent behavior, especially in patient experience and quality of care.

When I was working in public policy, I found that most people recommended, “just start in the schools” to solve most of society’s problems. In business, the corollary seems to be, “just change the culture”. What both of these have in common is that both are complex, decentralized, and difficult to change and move quickly.

Gladwell’s three rules are a good framework to use to do the work of deploying a new culture because it forces you to take deliberate action to reach the right people, create the right messages, and create the right environment for that new culture to take hold. It also means that the leader has to exercise their two most important skills to really map this out effectively: empathy and active listening.

How else would you find out who the connectors, mavens, and salespeople are in the organization without listening to people to find out who has the most people in common? Without empathy and listening, how do you work to craft effective messages that are “sticky” for your team? How do you create an environment for people to live organizational values, if you don’t understand the environment? Leaders can’t just put up signs and think everyone will read and listen to them!

I have used Gladwell’s lessons as a framework to effect positive change and I hope you do too.

KEY TAKEAWAY: For anything to “go viral”, it has to have three crucial elements: the right people, the right message, and the right environment/context. Gladwell’s lessons are applicable to situations requiring organizational change if leaders are willing to listen and empathize.


The Tipping Point is available for purchase on Amazon for $17 (not including Prime discount)

I listened to The Tipping Point on audible. I enjoyed it because Gladwell is the narrator, which makes it even more enjoyable to listen to. Highly recommend listening to this one.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tipping Point

  1. Pingback: If you work with people, work on culture | leadership as a practice

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Contagious – Why Things Catch On | leadership as a practice

Comments are closed.