THE TIPPING POINT
Introduction Summary and Analysis
The Tipping Point
, Gladwell follows trends from their inception to their end and tries to discover
why some ideas "tip" and others do not. First, Gladwell gives the three rules for the tipping point:
contagiousness; the fact that little causes can have big effects; and change happens in one moment.
The author begins with a recent fashion trend that seemed to come from nowhere. Hush Puppies shoes
fell in popularity to the point that the parent company decided to cancel the brand. However, when
they began to appear in New York City nightclubs, designers began to sell them once again. Thus, the
brand enjoyed a new birth of success. This example illustrates the three rules of epidemics:
contagiousness, little cause equals big effect and change occurs in one dramatic moment.
Yawning serves as an everyday example of an epidemic, though he points out that one may overlook
the full ramifications because one cannot readily grasp their exponential growth. For example, when
one folds a piece of paper fifty times, that paper would be tall enough to reach the moon. However,
many people cannot understand how such small actions could lead to such large results. The tipping
point exists in that moment when a new idea becomes a sensation, like the moment the temperature
drops enough to cause rain to turn to snow.
The thesis of the tipping point appears clearly in this introduction. The author uses a clear and
personable tone to discuss his ideas. In addition, he uses a blend of personal, everyday and technical
examples to illustrate the rules of his theory, thus relating well to a variety of readers.
Chapter One: The Three Rules of Epidemics Summary and Analysis
The opening chapter of the book renames the three rules of epidemics in the author's own, unique
language. He calls them the law of few, the stickiness factor and the power of context.
Gladwell uses an outbreak of syphilis in Baltimore, Maryland to illustrate the three rules in detail. He
points out that an idea can tip from any of several directions. In each situation, though, any one rule
may carry more weight than the others may.
Outbreaks of disease often draw attention by the number of people infected, and experts strive to
reduce the number. Gladwell points out, though, that a few connected people serve to spread the
disease. A well-known saying states that twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work.
Gladwell proposes that the same rings true in disease outbreaks.
He cites several documented cases of men spreading the HIV virus to multiple partners. First, he cites
the case of Darnell McGee, who admitted to sexual relations with 252 people after he knew he carried
HIV. He infected at least 30 people with the virus. Gaeton Dugas, a Canadian flight attendant, claims
to have slept with 2,500 partners, spreading HIV to many along his flight routes. Such people tipped
HIV from a little known disease to a worldwide epidemic. Gladwell then assumes that a few key