Friday, November 19, 2010

The Tipping Point

Book Review : The Tipping Point
Author : Malcolm Gladwell
My Rating : 3 out of 5

The complete title of the book is "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference".

When I read "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, I had mixed reactions. I thought the author wrote a very nice to read book but was portraying some great insight which we already know via common sense. Still I was interested in trying his earlier books. After reading "Tipping Point", I hate to say this, but I don't think I will read his other books.

The books have the same format - interesting anecdotes mixed with author's assertions. In "Tipping Point", Gladwell is examining how a certain product suddenly becomes popular, how something becomes a fad - in short how a "meme goes viral".

This is a very interesting investigation. Gladwell classifies the concepts into various labels - Mavens, Connectors, Salesperson, Power of the context, Law of the few, Stickiness factor etc. Gladwell explains his labels well. There are enough interesting people and stories to keep the reader engaged. Gladwell supports his assertions using diverse stories that range from children's shows to religious groups to crime rates in New York.

All this is fine, and the book is easy to read. It did become a big long and repetitive for me by the end. But that could be just me. The real problem is - the whole premise feels unscientific. This is not real new research in any field of study, but it's presented as such. Like "Outliers", Gladwell is just quoting other researchers in this book. He does a good job of connecting their inferences and there is no plagiarism, but there is very little original contribution. And much less in the way of any new insight. Most of it is just common sense deductions arranged in a pseudo-scientific package.

In spite of giving it the 3 star rating, I may be coming off as a bit too harsh and negative. It's not a bad book, it's just that it doesn't deliver what it promises. The superficiality is frustrating. I know that books should be fun read in order to appeal to as much audience as possible, but serious research and original insight can be fun as numerous books have done - like "Freakonomics" or "Guns, Germs and Steel". This book may help you pass an idle evening or have some nice discussions around lunch table. But that's about it. Expect more, and you will be disappointed.

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