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Sabtu, 02 Februari 2008

The Tipping Point 1

The Tipping Point
By Malcolm Gladwell


After a long surge until1980's, NYC’s crime rate dropped in an extremely short time. The phenomenon took place dramatically, not gradually. Later when we examine what the cause was, we'll find in this book that actually it was triggered by little changes imposed by local administration.

In addition to dramatic effects caused by little changes, contagiousness makes such phenomenon as NYC's crime rate drop an epidemic. Unlike epidemic caused by virus, the social epidemic entails the spread of new ideas, new trends, new habits, or the like. This kind of epidemic is called the tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell because it demonstrates a sudden change like the tip in your fingertip.

Although little changes can cause big effects or radical changes, not all changes succeed in causing such effects. Questions to answer then are (1) why some ideas, messages, behaviors, or products tip, while others do not, and (2) what we can do to start a tipping point or a good social epidemic.

Chapter I: The Three Rules of Epidemic

In mid 1990’s, Baltimore experienced an increase of syphilis infection. One theory says that it was because of the use of cracks, while another says it was because of the breakdown of health public service due to budget constraint, yet another says the devil was the city’s housing dislocation resulting in infected, transmitting people moved and were rampant.

There is a hidden and interesting fact, that is the cause agents only increased a bit but resulted in a big effect. The three agents of change: (1) the people infected and transmitting the infection (the law of the few), (2) the infectious agent itself (the stickiness factor), and (3) the environment where the infection is operating (the power of context).

The law of the few relates to the law of 80/20 in which 20% agents contributed 80% results. However, in epidemic, the proportion becomes more extreme: a tiny group causes most. For example, “Boss Man” McGee (St Louis, mid 1990’s) infected at least 30 with HIV and “Face” / “Sly” / “Shyteek” Williams (Buffalo, mid 1990’s) infected at least 16. Such people as Boss Man and Face have special characteristics, i.e. sociable, energetic, persuasive, enthusiastic, exceptional-select people.

The stickiness factor relates to the strength of the infectious agent itself in infecting a lot of people. For example, the mutation of flu virus in the beginning of 20th century made it a lot stronger killing tens of thousands of people (1918). HIV virus was also mutated from a weaker virus into a deadly one. In the world of messages, a sticky message or idea should have widespread impact in a longer term. It consists of catchy, contagious phrases.

The power of context relates to the environment where the epidemic takes place. For example, the black-star area in Baltimore where syphilis-infected people lived enlarged and shrank due to the circumstances. Another example is the big city life, like NYC where once people ignored crimes happening in front of their nose. In 1964, 38 people heard her scream, but acted non to help Kitty Genovese – a young Queens woman – from killing. Based on a research, when in a group, people perceive their responsibility lower (like fardhu kifayah) than when not in a group (like fardhu ain).

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