All entries for Tuesday 04 January 2005

January 04, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell – Blink

January 11th 2005 will see the US release of Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Blink.


What Is Blink? It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, "Blink" is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.

Gladwell's previous book, Tipping Point was a huge success worldwide and discussed the spread of ideas within a body of people. The rapid spread of a given idea can be termed a social epidemic and is associated with technological, fashion and ideological trends. Central to this book is the thought that there exists a certain critical point at which new ideas suddenly gain widespread recognition; The Tipping Point. Additionally, small changes in a system can have disproportionate effects which allow this.

The three ideas which govern social epidemics are as follows:
a) The Law of the Few
b) The Stickiness Factor
c) The Power of Context

The Law of the Few
It takes only three types of people to allow an idea to spread: People with highly specialised knowledge (Mavens), people with contacts which spanning a range of 'worlds' (Connectors) and people able to persuade others to change their behaviour (Salesmen). The majority of people could be put into one of these categories, but only when exceptional people in each category are combined is there potential for a social epidemic.

The Stickiness Factor
Small changes in the way ideas are presented can greatly improve the ease with which they remain in people's minds.

Small changes in the environment in which the idea exists can increase the ease and subsequent speed of transmission between people.

I've talked about the spread of ideas ideas here, but the above principles can be applied to physical epidemics such as the spread of the common cold. The Tipping Point is full of real world examples illustrating the above principles. Such examples range from the popularity of smoking amongst teenagers to the development of TV shows such as Sesame Street. It is definitely worth your time.

Hopefully, Malcolm Gladwell's new offering will prove equally successful.

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