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									The Six Minute Book Summary of The Book,
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can
Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell

Executive Summary
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of “The Tipping Point,” a book that talks about many different
areas of epidemics and how they start and what affects them. Gladwell discusses many different
topics of epidemics: The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, The Power of Context, and some
different case studies. Gladwell explains how there are many people in the world with different
reasons of their own they create epidemics.
            In The Law of the Few, Gladwell discusses different points about how certain people can
create an epidemic, may it be hushpuppy shoes, the Baltimore syphilis outbreak and many other
different scenarios. He explains the characteristics that they posse and how these people live their
lives. Gladwell talks about the reasoning behind this and his personal take on these people.
            In The Stickiness Factor Gladwell examines the reasoning of why the children’s show
Sesame Street has such a sticky factor for children. Gladwell explains the fact of how the creators of
the children’s show did so much research and development to make sure that the children of the
poor rural areas were getting the educational value from it. He later explains how Blue’s Clues had
similar effect, but a different approach that grabs the stickiness factor and runs rapid with it.
            In the Power of Context Gladwell explains how a couple of men with a crazy chain of
events can change the crime rate in the New York City area. He talks about how the crime rate is
getting out of hand on the subways and what events transpired to make the system the way it is
today. Gladwell also goes on to talk about the correlation of the magic number of 150 and how it
can play a role in the relationships people have today.
           In the case studies Gladwell gives many different examples of how things happen and
how some are related. He begins with the Power of Translation and the rise and fall of the Airwalk
shoe. Later Galdwell examines the relationship between the suicide rates of young males in
Micronesia and the smoking among teen boys in North America. The final study tells us about this
woman who does her best to promote awareness in the African American women in the San Diego
            Gladwell is a man of many different experiences, and examines many different ways that
can help or hinder different situations that go on all around us. Gladwell gives his point of view on
the subject and why things happen the way they do.
The Ten Things Managers Need to Know fromThe Tipping Point
    1. Epidemics happen all the time around us. Sometimes it is done with no knowledge that
       what is happening is going to become an epidemic.
    2. Sometimes random people can promote a business without your control and it should be
       used to your advantage if possible.
    3. The “cool factor” with Airwalk shoes taught us to always remember who your original
       customers are and that more is not always better.
    4. Connectors, mavens and salesman are all different personality types that play a key role in
       making a person successful in the business world.
    5. Repetition and comprehension are vital when attempting to give an idea or product the
       “Stickiness Factor.”
    6. People are a counterpart of their environment and are largely shaped by the people they
       encounter, the streets they live on, the shows they watch, etc.
    7. There is power in numbers. Large groups can tip something into major popularity.
    8. Word of mouth is just as important as any other marketing tool.
    9. The more people you are connected to the more successful you can be. Never burn bridges
       and always do business with good moral and ethical grounds.
    10.“The tipping point” is a phrase that explains the point in time when unplanned events bring
       a trend into an epidemic.
Full Summary of The Tipping Point
3 Rules of Epidemics
       There are three rules of epidemics. These rules consist of: The Law of the Few, The
Stickiness Factor, and Power of Context. There are many different situations the author uses to
explain these rules. The law of the few is broken down into three important personality types.
Gladwell shows how repetition is important and gives examples of situations in which
products/businesses can become very popular using the phrase “The Stickiness Factor.” The Power
of context describes how there is power in groups and large groups can sometimes give a product
the popularity that it needs to be successful. Gladwell begins the book by giving examples of
Baltimore and the syphilis outbreak and the East village kids wearing hushpuppy’s shoes, which
explains the term “the tipping point.” “The tipping point,” is the phrase that explains the key point
where some unplanned event happens and sets that trend into one of three different epidemics.
         Gladwell explains the Baltimore Syphilis outbreak as a problem that started out the same as
all other major cities in the nation; however, there was a change that began with the rise of crack/
cocaine use in the area. When people started using crack/cocaine they not only enjoyed the
experience of sexual pleasure more, but their inhibitions are down and they are less likely to
practice safe sex which prompted the increase of infected persons in the Baltimore area. Another
major factor that played a part in the syphilis problem was that the city was trying to clean up its
poor neighborhoods so they were tearing down all of the inner-city housing building which forced
all of those people to move around the city also spreading the disease. At this time there were also
cut-backs for doctors in the area; therefore people were unable to get diagnosed much less treated
for their sexual transmitted disease. The point of this is that all three of these elements joined
together create the “tipping point.” Not one of these factors are responsible for the outbreak in
isolation of one another, it is otherwise stated that all three factors combined make the tipping point
which in turn begins the epidemic.
        Gladwell discusses the “hushpuppy dilemma.” The hushpuppy company sells shoes and
their sales were down, their fad was over, and the company was going under. Hushpuppy was soon
to go out of business until some kids in the East Village of New York began to wear the shoes out in
public. It was not so much the fact that it was in public that spiced up shoe sales, but mainly the
fact that the places that the kids wore the shoes were of high end status for example: high end café’s
and nightclubs. Before they knew it, the company had doubled their yearly sales. They begin
receiving phone calls from famous photographers requesting their new line of shoes for the photo
spots. As time progressed there was not a single shoe store that did not carry their brand of shoes.
Law of the Few
        This chapter begins the discussion on Connectors and the types of people connectors are.
Connectors are defined as people who seem to know everybody or have some correlation with all
sorts of other people. Gladwell uses the example of Paul Revere and William Dawes and the reason
people mainly speak of only Paul Revere and not of William Dawes. Paul Revere was a connector.
He was well known in his community and involved in many different clubs in and out of town,
which is the reason people automatically believed him when he said “the British are coming.”
Gladwell explains that it was not Dawes fault, it was just that Revere was more connected so his
word was believed more readily and also by more people.
        Gladwell explains how connectors work by giving a list of last names right out of the New
York phone book. It consists of around 250 surnames, he then asks to go through and give points
for every surname one knows. He later explains that an average connector will know around 50
surnames. He states if someone scores a 90 or more that they can consider themselves a good
connector. There is a great connector by the name of Rodger Horchow. “Horchow is the type of
person who knows everyone. He is the type of man that if you were to meet him on an airplane, he
will right your name in his black book and send you a birthday card.” Another great connector was
Louis Weisberg whom was a well connected woman. She was involved in the Commissioner of
Cultural Affairs of Chicago. This drama troupe staged a festival to George Bernard Shaw’s birth
and editorial meeting which William Friedkin attended who went to direct “The French Connection
and the Exorcist.” Weisberg was a person who could not be still and who knew so many people
they came to her because of her amount of involvement in the community which is what makes her
a great connector.
        Maven is a Yiddish word that describes a person whom accumulates knowledge. Mavens
are the type of people that have the urge to help others with decisions that they do not have enough
information about to make an informed decision on their own. Gladwell meets a man by the name
of Mac Alphert who is a Maven. Alphert is the type of person that would help anyone, not because
he has to but because he wants to. For example, if you were getting a new car he would recommend
you not just look at price, but also safety, only because he already knows the information because
he is the type that reads the consumer reports just for information. “Mavens have the knowledge
and social skills to start word of mouth epidemics” (Gladwell., 2000).
        The third law of few is the salesman. Salesmen are a group of people with skills to persuade
the public when unconvinced of what is being presented (Gladwell.,2000). A man named Tom Gau
is introduced. He is a financial planner in California. Gau has the third largest field in southern
California and one of the top financial planning firms in the country. Gau is a great “salesman”
who fits the character perfectly. Gladwell explains that he had an interview with Gau and he sat at
his plain desk face to face. Gladwell noticed that as they were speaking Gladwell’s facial responses
mimicked those of Gau’s. Normally a salesperson should follow the customer’s facial responses to
figure out if the deal is working, but Gau has this special skill which can get his listeners to imitate
his expressions. Gau has the ability to charm his customers into hanging on his every word and
before they know it they are hooked into his trance.
       There was a study done on the presidential election with Ronald Reagan and Walter
Mondale. The three nightly news stations consisting of: ABC with Peter Jennings, NBC with Tom
Brokaw, and CBS with Dan Rather all covered the election. The study showed that Peter Jennings
had showed a bias in facial expressions towards Ronald Reagan. When he talked about Reagan he
would smile and with just that small facial expression the statistics showed that more people who
watched Peter Jennings voted for Reagan. Gladwell explains that this is a small study which cannot
prove that this is the reason Reagan won the election, but it seems to have had some persuasion over
the viewers.
        The Law of the Few describes three different personalities of people. Everybody has these
qualities but it’s just that some people have stronger characteristics than others. Connectors are
those who have a multitude of relationships with all types of people. Mavens are people who have
the knowledge to give to others to help them out in specific times of need. Salesmen are people
who possess this special charisma to attract others into their world. All three of these types of
people can start word of mouth epidemics in their own special way.
The Stickiness Factor: Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, and The Educational Virus
       The “Stickiness Factor” is explains as trends that will obtain popularity. This is how
information is retained in one’s memory from what they see and hear. Gladwell explains how
shows such as Sesame Street and Blue’s Clues have a “stickiness factor” on children and why it
works so well.
        Sesame Street is the show that has kept the attention of children for years, but it did not start
that way. Sesame Street first started out to get children in poverty stricken neighborhoods the same
learning advantage as more privileged children. Back then they thought of television as a box that
talked and no one retained what was said; however, Sesame Street begin the stickiness factor with
children. They did many different tests to understand what made children watching retain the
information. For example: they learned that kids would lose interest if it were only adults talking
but gained more interest when it was the Muppets on television. So they decided to combine the
two to get the children to watch the entire time. Changing the show helped children watching learn
and have the ability to understand literacy before going to preschool.
        Many years after Sesame Street, Nickelodeon Company branched off of their ideas but
furthered their studies to understand what else could help children. The shows make the viewer
actually feel like they are on the show by using long pauses after questions so the child can answer.
They direct questions to the viewers talking directly to the child through the screen. Another
concept Nickelodeon took from Sesame Street is called the “James Earl Jones Affect” which is the
process of repeating the alphabet because repetition helps to retain information better, therefore they
would air the show once every day so the child would remember. The key to being sticky is
repetition and comprehension.
The Power of Context (part 1)
        Gladwell brings to our attention the Power of Context which is the third principle of
epidemic transmission. He talks about the crime in New York City and what caused the tipping
point for its change. We also come to understand the “Broken Window Theory” in this chapter and
how it can help.
         New York had the worst crime rate in the nation for a while. There was a man named
Bernahard Gertz and his own circumstances as well as others tipped the crime rate in subway
stations. Gertz was a quiet man who lived in a bad part of the city. He sat next to four black men
on a train on his way to the store. The men stood up next to Gertz and asked for five dollars, one of
the men pointed at his side as if he had a gun to instill fear into Gertz, nevertheless, Gertz was the
one who had the gun. Gertz opened fire on all four men, not killing any of them but paralyzing
one. Gertz later turned himself in and was considered a hero by the city. He was later acquitted of
all charges, and things began to change in the subways. People started to realize how important it is
to fix the subway crime problem. A man by the name of David Gunn believed in what is known as
the “Broken Window Theory” which states that if minor things are left damaged in an area it can
later begin to cause major damage to things over time. For example: a dirty street begins to make a
dirty community. Gunn began to clean the trains from graphite and he would wait for the kids to
come back and re-graphite the train. It would take the kids 3 days to graphite the train where it
would only take Gunn one day to paint over it, so the kids eventual stopped wasting their time.
Gunn also hired transit authority William Bretton who took it upon himself to arrest people who
were “fare beating” or not paying for their train fare. As they were arrested, police were finding
that some of these people had warrants for their arrest, concealed weapons, drugs, etc. As time
carried on people stopped fare beating as well as carrying concealed weapons and drugs; ultimately
making the subway a safer place for travel.
        The power of context is simply that people are powerfully shaped by their environment.
The streets one walks down, the programs on television, and the people one encounters play a huge
role in shaping who one becomes and the way in which a community grows.
The Power of Context (part 2) The magic number one hundred and fifty
       The power of a group can tip something into large popularity. Gladwell speaks of the
number one hundred and fifty and how that number works for people in groups. A study was done
by Robin Dunbar simply observing primates including humans because they have the largest brains
of all mammals. By studying the brains neocortex he notices that humans have a group estimate of
roughly 150. “This figure of 150 seems to represent the maximum number of individuals with
whom we can have a genuine social relationship with, the kind of relationship that goes with
knowing who they are and how they relate to us” (Gladwell., 2000). It means that people can get
along and work better in a group of 150 rather than 200 or more. People can better get to know one
another and understand how they all think and act on a more personal level, which can eventually
have a serious action on tipping things in any event. Gladwell also talks about the book “Ya-Ya
Sisterhood” being tipped by women in Northern California. The book did not take off as well as
planned; however the role that groups play in social epidemic helped this book along the way.
Groups have a huge role in epidemics because people get together to discuss their ideas, point of
views, and likes and dislikes of things. In Northern California there was the largest and strongest
book club in the country. The women would get together and discuss the “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and
between the women it became “stickier” and it was also a word of mouth epidemic by the women
talking about the book to their friends outside of the book club. From there the word spread all over
the country and continues to have national success from the fact that a woman in California loved
the book and was a part of a large group to tip it. Therefore, a group has a huge effect on how well
epidemics go under and the size of a group can have an effect on the tipping point of a particular
situation as well.
Case Study: Rumors, sneakers, and the power of translation
        In this case study the rise and the fall of the Airwalk is discussed and how this brand name
of shoe was made for the skate boarders in the Southern California area. When the shoe first came
out it had a great ad campaign and was only sold to certain stores. The Airwalk Company grew into
a thirteen million dollar per year business. They sponsored all different types of skating events.
Airwalk was well respected among skaters because they were shoes strictly for them. The
company’s marketing made the shoe have a “coolness factor” promoting the fact that only those
people who whore the shoes were cool. This style of marketing gave Airwalk its “tip” on the
principle of epidemic transmission. Later it was found that this marketing tool also became the
downfall of the shoe. The company basically went from underground to mainstream selling shoes
in crazy stores taking away the personal factor (the skater). Once the shoe became more easily
accessible to mainstream public, it was no longer in high demand for the skaters. Airwalk forgot
about their first and truest clients which caused them to fail.
Case Study: Suicide, smoking, and the search for the unsticky cigarette
        Gladwell examines Micronesia and North America. These two countries are very different;
however, they have a common stickiness factor and similar problems. In Micronesia there is an
extreme increase in suicide rate in males between the ages of fifteen through twenty-four. It seems
that the males take their life when they have some kind of wounded pride. The facts state that in
North America 160 per every 100,000 males end up all committing suicide the same way. The
stickiness part is that when a male is wounded or hurt by some domestic dispute in his life they feel
that there is only one way to solve the problem, which is how the stickiness seems to have an effect
in North America. In this case study Gladwell also explains that teenage smoking is increasing in
North America. Years ago the smoking companies promoted smoking as cool, and children
watched their parents smoke so they assumed it was something they should do. People today still
can remember the feelings they had the first time they ever took a puff off of a cigarette. So
children assumed it was cool and they pressured other kids into smoking and the chain continues.
Even though the media has completely changed its advertisement to now being against smoking,
word of mouth and peer pressure keep the sticky factor alive (Everyone is doing it, so why
shouldn’t I). Boys will experiment, it is what teenagers do. The problem is that this case study
shows examples of the stickiness factor being a negative thing. Between deadly cigarettes and high
suicide rates, when will there be an end to these unfortunate and unnecessary deadly sticky factors.
Conclusion: Focus, Test, Believe
         George Sadler began a campaign to bring awareness of diabetes and breast cancer in African
American communities in San Diego. Sadler began seeking low cost ways to get the word out, so
he enlisted the assistance of the local hairstylists. Sadler hired a folklorist to come and teach the
stylists how to bring to the customers attention about having physical examinations because breast
cancer and diabetes is becoming a growing problem among their community. Gladwell states that
this way of education is called a “band-aid” meaning that one solves the outer problem, but does not
care for the real issues underneath the surface. Gladwell feels that even though this is a small way
to get the word out, eventually with enough work it could began to have a tipping point into
massive popularity saving many African American women’s lives.
The Video Lounge
Gladwell talks about the how the people of this minority are changing, and how the future for this
area is going to be different soon.
Personal Insights
Why I think Gladwell is one of the most brilliant people around because he gives people a great
insight about why sometimes things happen and the way in which they do happen. There is a
reason behind every stickiness factor and tipping point and he brings them to the surface. Gladwell
has met many people throughout the writing of his book and has picked up on knowledge of how
things have become popular and profitable, which is everything an entrepreneur needs to make
himself more marketable and successful. The three rules of epidemics along with examples of
different connectors are all brilliant tools that can be broken down and used to help others in the
business world, which is why this book should be read by any marketing or business person who is
just starting out.
    • If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:
    1. I would have written the book without going off course. Gladwell seems to start a subject
       and then get sidetracked. He would go off on a tangent and end up not having much
       affiliation with the original subject.
    1. I would have had more experiences for the subject that he discussed to show that it
       happened in more than just one instance.
    1. I would have tried to find more people with the same personalities he talked about in order
       to show there are many more people out in the world than just the few he discussed
Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:
    1. It made me realize how sometimes one or multiple things can change the area in which you
       live in.
    2. When owning a business that any variable can make or break that business or product.
    3. Marketing and business is an art form and without certain types of personalities in people,
       epidemics would never occur and marketing may not be as successful.
I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:
    1. Every person met along the way may be able to help you down the road. So never burn
       bridges and always be nice and respectful to others because you never know what may
       happen later in life.
    2. Sometimes no matter what you do, situations are going to happen that is out of your control.
    3. Never give up on anything, always be persistent, and repetition is key when attempting to
       make something “sticky.”
Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:
Gladwell has very good reviews by multiple scholarly journals and magazines. In USA Today,
Deirdre Donahue merits Gladwell’s work by acknowledging how he confirms the socialistic ways
of the human being. People are social creatures and influence each other no matter what new
technologies we may bring into the world. Donahue states that the book The Tipping Point is a
fantastic read with a diverse amount of scientific studies to back up Gladwell’s theories and justify
human behavior and how epidemics are started. “Gladwell believes that by understanding how
such tipping points are reached, we can deliberately use them to market products, or push for social
changes, or just understand ourselves better” (FabTime, 2010). One magazine review states that
Gladwell has a tendency to go off on a tangent most probably because he is used to writing
scientific based magazine articles making it difficult for him to pass up a good story; nevertheless,
the stories are still interesting and researched very well even though it may be off topic a bit (Time,
2010). FabTime states that this book is not just a good read, but also dives into the subject of
human behavior making the reader think critically and understand behavior of human beings a little
better. Bridgeman (2000) complements Gladwell on his exploration of ideas and his analysis on the
examples given that encourages the reader to react or disagree. “It is not the details that are
important here. Gladwell is giving us a big picture and asking us to look at it in different ways, to
tilt our heads, change our perspective and reframe. Take or leave the example, but it does give the
reader a pattern to apply to other situations” (Bridgeman, 2000). Therefore, the three reviews found
on Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point have recommended the book to readers ranging from
parents to educators to marketers and anyone who is interested in the study of human behavior.
With that being said this book is an excellent book for any college student interested in business and
Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point how little things can make a big difference. Boston, New
York, and London: Little, Brown and Company.
Bridgeman, J.M. (2000). Self-medicating. Retrieved from
Donahue, D. (2000). 'Little things' does make a big difference. Retrieved from
Time, F. (2010). book reviews: the tipping point by malcolm gladwell. Retrieved from
This book summary and review of The Tipping Point was prepared by Christopher Schorle while a
Marketing student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University. To contact the
author of this “Summary and Review of the Tipping Point,” please email at
This document has been initially released under Creative Commons licence by David C. Wyld
(, Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in
Hammond, Louisiana. For details on the licensing terms click here:

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