MINP: December #1: theme: It’s the Little Things that Make a Big Difference

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is an informational story of how the author explored major tipping points in history and in the modern world today. The analogy that Gladwell uses is that everyday trends and happenings are epidemics.

“It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books in bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics.” (Gladwell, p. 7)

Ideas and products behave and spread like viruses, and eventually they reach a tipping point. One example that he gives the the rise in popularity of Hush Puppies, a brand of shoes. They were a very small thing that nobody knew about. But then, something happened, something small. A few people bought Hush Puppies, wore them around, and suddenly it became the new style. Everybody was buying Hush Puppies – they were a necessity. What happened was the tipping point and what caused it was just a very small action. People didn’t go around advertising Hush Puppies, telling everybody that it was the new trend and that it was so cool. What happened was that a few teenagers bought Hush Puppies and wore them around town, exposing others to them – spreading the virus and infecting others.

Gladwell gives many other examples of tipping points in society but what he wants the reader to understand are three things: contagiousness, little things make a big difference, and that change happens at one dramatic moment. One of the major themes of the book is that it is the little things that make a big difference. Another example Gladwell gave was the dramatic decline in crime in New York in 1993. In the space of five years, the crime dropped 64.3 percent and it wasn’t because anything dramatic happened. The murderers weren’t all suddenly caught or moved away or anything like that. It was a series of small changes.

“The crack trade leveled off. The population got a little older. The police force got a little better. Yet the effect was dramatic.” (Gladwell, p. 8)

Basically, what Gladwell is trying to explain is that tipping points are caused by small, minor changes, not dramatic ones.


Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point. New York: Little, Brown, 2002. Print.

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