The Tipping Point
One of the best writings I have ever read. Incredible book by Malcolm Gladwell that sets a new high record on the number of Post-it Flags -> 61. This truly remarkable research outlines the mechanisms through which ideas propagate through society. Who are the key people, what are their characteristics, what are the characteristics of messages that succeed in spreading and what role does the environment play on the process.
Instead of giving a summary of the book, I am going to drop 3 breathtaking topics I encountered through this book, and I am going to let you buy and read the book to understand how they all connect:
- One of the most important type of people “with a particular and rare set of social gifts” for spreading an idea are the Connectors. When the 6 degrees of separation experiment was made, there was a side discovery – most of the letters went through the same people to reach the targets. “It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.” What is interesting about those people is:
- They value the weak tie, they send bday cards, they remember facts, write numbers
- They know people from very different kinds of social circles and interests
- They find something interesting in everyone they meet
- Did you know that roughly 56% of people find jobs through a personal connection, 18% through advertisement or agency and roughly 20% applied directly. Even more fascinating – most of those 56% happen through those weak ties that the connectors value so much, not through best friends.
- A gossip/news/message can cause an epidemics and tip to become extremely popular only when it reaches those Connectors, which then are able to spread it in bulk to other people and other Connectors.
THE POWER OF CONTEXT
- It turns out small changes in the environment can trigger huge behavioral changes, that we used believe were hard coded in the personality of a human. Behavior is function of social context.
- You don’t need to catch every criminal in New York City to stop crime in subway. History shows that all you have to do is clean the graffiti and stop the fare beating. This creates a friendlier atmosphere where people are not predisposed to making a crime.
- This same theory is the reason why perfectly normal regular kids can become nasty guards if put into a simulated prison environment.
- Honesty isn’t a fundamental trait. It is considerably influenced by context. Kids that don’t usually cheat easily slip into cheating given a few simple incentives, and changes of environment. Kids tested number of times over period of time rarely give the same results in amount of cheating.
- So all of that means that you can tweak slightly the environment and cause people to behave in a different way.
- …and our brains are not good at calculating how powerful this concept of tweaking is.
- People work, live, interact best when they are in groups of 150. This way they have enough power to go through problems, and yet are personal and know each other’s skills and abilities. It is an important environmental contextual characteristic.
- This is because people often create ‘joint memory’. The husband remembers some things, the wife others and thus when they get sync-ed over the years, all they have to know is who remembers what. This, on the other side, is one of the reasons why divorces are so painful – it is a bit like loosing part of yourself. Groups of 150 are still able to do efficient ‘joint memory’.
- Groups of 150 also have tremendous peer pressure, which is much more significant motivator than money. Companies should be run in teams of 150.
CIGARETS AND TIPPING POINT
- Preventing addiction:
- People that smoke & are addicted to smoking are called smokers.
- People that smoke (even up to a pack a day) but are NOT addicted are called chippers.
- When kids (around 15) start smoking, it takes them 3 years to phase out from chippers to smokers.
- The addiction is not achieved gradually, but rather at a tipping point, that is unique for each person, and is dependent on his genetic tolerance to nicotine.
- Thus one way to prevent chippers to never become regular addicted smokers is to lower the nicotine in cigarettes so that even if they smoke a pack a day, they are not able to reach their nicotine addiction tipping point.
- Breaking addiction:
- Three brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters affect our happiness/depression state: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
- “Drugs like Zoloft and Prozac work because they prompt the brain to produce more serotonin: they compensate, in other words, for the deficit of serotonin that some depressed people suffer from. Nicotine appears to do exactly the same thing with the other two key neurotransmitters – dopamine and norepinephrine.”
- Thus smokers in effect give themselves little shots of ‘happiness’ by smoking.
- This is the key strategy – if you treat smokers for depression, you decrease their addiction to smoking and quitting becomes much less painful.
- This was discovered by Glaxo Wellcome when they released anti-depressant Bupropion and people started reporting decreased desire to smoke. Today this medicine is marketed as Zyban to heavy smokers.
When I flip through the pages, jumping from bookmark to bookmark, I truly get lost in the sea of incredible discoveries of our simple, yet complex social behavior. I super highly recommend that you read this book, and also sit and think about how these concepts can be applied directly to achieve results in life.