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The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell ****

This little book is highly entertaining. There’s frankly not a lot in it, and certainly nothing original. The concepts Gladwell puts across were being taught on my Operational Research masters in the 1970s. But what he is so good at (and did again in his second book Blink) is taking a very simple but powerful concept and transforming it into a great little book by providing very clear, engaging stories that put the idea into context. It’s the stories that are fresh and powerful.
In this book the idea is the mechanism for the spread of a concept, a fad, a virally marketed product is like an epidemic. The mathematical mechanisms are well understood, but because they aren’t ones that come naturally to us they take us by surprise time and time again.
Gladwell shows how different types of interconnects between people spread ideas, and finding a relatively small number of people with the right connections can make a huge difference. Covering everything from six degrees of connection to Sesame Street, it’s very well sewn together.
Frankly, the content doesn’t deserve those four stars, but it does have a scientific basis, and Gladwell’s excellent story telling makes it such a good read that it’s a light relief after much popular science.
What’s more, this is a book you can read on a wet afternoon, it won’t take weeks of study, which again isn’t a bad thing.
All in all, a great little book.

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Review by Brian Clegg


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