The Tipping Point | Study Guide

Malcolm Gladwell

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The Tipping Point | Chapter 5 : The Power of Context (Part Two): The Magic Number One Hundred and Fifty | Summary


Key Takeaways

  • This chapter discusses the role of groups in spreading social epidemics.
  • Author Rebecca Wells's book Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood became a best seller in 1997, exceeding expectations. The book's sudden popularity came from enthusiastic book groups; reading it became "a social experience."
  • Groups and communities can "tip" epidemics, but which groups are most effective? Gladwell points to a principle called the Rule of 150.
  • Humans have "channel capacities" or limits to the information they can absorb at one time. The limit to human "social channel capacity" is about 150 people. An individual can forge a genuine relationship with no more than 150 others at once.
  • Many groups, such as the Hutterite religious community and the company Gore Associates, cap their size at 150. They've achieved cohesion and success as a result.
  • For instance, Gore employees have different areas of expertise, and they trust one another to master certain job roles through a process called "transactive memory."
  • Groups of 150 people or fewer can easily spread information through "the bonds of memory and peer pressure."
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