In his business best seller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell looked at the way new products sometimes "take over" the consumer marketplace. His particular interest was in what he called "tipping-point" innovations. Why is it, he wanted to know, that some products—such as Hush Puppies or Slinkys or iPods—suddenly become enormous trends?
The traditional view is that these are breakthroughs—completely new and different products that, for whatever reason, capture the imagination of a given market. Gladwell's research led him to a different conclusion: that trendsetting products are not revolutionary at all; rather, they are variations on a growing theme.
Most of the biggest social trends of modern times, Gladwell contends, were not stark departures from the past but minor variations on ideas that were already in the collective consciousness:
Merely by manipulating the size of a group, we can dramatically improve its receptivity to new ideas. By tinkering with the presentation of information, we can significantly improve its stickiness. Simply by finding and reaching those few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics. In the end, Tipping Points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action. Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in ...