What or Who causes ideas to tip?

A Review of
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By: Malcom Gladwell


book coverJust as the title promised, Gladwell explained how it’s the little things over time that make the difference and in the end cause the change to tip.  Despite being written in 2006, the basic ideas still resonated strongly with me and added to my perspective of how change comes to be in the world around us. As leaders, The Tipping Point reminded us to appreciate the people in our network and value the the small changes because in the end it’s more often the combination of small consistent changes that have shaped the world around us than large sweeping initiatives.

Gladwell skillfully uses real life case studies and stories to engage the reader in an interesting journey through the evolution of an idea.   He compared an idea to that of an epidemic.  One moment or perhaps for years it’s just an idea or how things have always been and then it hits the tipping point and everything changes. He referenced New York City’s drop in crime and why Paul Revere’s ride changed history and the other guy’s didn’t.  Did you know there was another rider that tried to warn of the British invasion?  By encouraging us to reflect on the world around us, Gladwell opened our minds to the possibilities of change and helped us understand why some ideas spread. He also noted the factors that help ideas catch fire.

It seems simple that good ideas will spread.  People get excited, they share their ideas and the effect ripples out.  It would be interesting to read an updated afterword by Gladwell based on the changes in social media in the last 10 years, but I imagine he’d say the same types of people still exist.  It’s just their medium and perhaps sphere of influence that has broadened.

“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts” (p. 33).  That is the law of the few.  Gladwell explained that there are three key types of people in our world. Connectors, Maven and Salesmen.

Connectors are those in our networks that know lots of other people and their networks cross into many different types of social circles.  They enjoy bringing people together from different circles and introduce you.  Gladwell encouraged the reader to pause for a moment and think about your friends.  How did you meet them?  Who introduced you? More than likely, there’s one or two people that made those connections.   As an introvert, connectors are very important people to me.  They eliminate the need for small talk and connect you with people without requiring the extra energy it takes to meet strangers.  When you are brought together by a connector, you already have something in common to talk about.

Mavens are the “people we rely upon to connect us with new information” (p. 19) about specific topics. They are passionate about the topic they care about and you trust their advice. Just think about it.  Who’s your tech person?  Who recommends the best places to eat? Who do you ask when your car doesn’t work?  We all know mavens.  They want to share and they are often skilled communicators.

Lastly, Gladwell referred to the salesmen or those who are good at persuading.  Not only are they skilled verbal communicators, their body language seals the deal.  Interestingly, Gladwell mentioned the role of body language and the subtle ways these people exude persuasive body language.

Share your idea with one of these people and the chance of it spreading greatly increases, however, just sharing the idea won’t cause a word of mouth epidemic. He explained the message has to stick.  If people don’t remember it, they won’t share it.

What truly resonated with me, partially because the idea has come up in several other reads, was the power of context. People’s behaviour is reflective of the type of environment that’s been created.  It’s what he called the broken windows effect.  In short if we walk down a street with dilapidated old buildings, dark alleys, filled with garbage and lots of broken windows, we will act differently. The theory suggested that you will also see a higher violent crime rate.  Literally, clean up your streets and your crime rate will drop.

Filled with moving examples, Gladwell repeatedly draws the connections back to case studies and the complimentary research in a way that is sure to keep you turning the pages. It increases your awareness of the change happening around you and the next time something tips…maybe you’ll spot one of the reasons why.  Interestingly, Gladwell explained it’s not the huge changes that cause ideas to spread it’s the small, consistent actions that happen everyday that build into lasting change.

Leadership Connections:

  • What’s this have to do with being a leader?  Change is always happening.  As a leader, we are often asked to move change forward.  Understanding how change works and how you can tip change in a positive way, increases your chances at successfully reaching your goal.  Whether you want to improve your school or lead an effective team, understanding change will help you better support your team.
  • Do you know your people?  Can you spot the connectors, mavens and salespeople on your team?  The diversity of your team is an asset on which you can build the skills of everyone.
  • Understanding the value of the tipping point means that you don’t have to stand at the front and lecture people on what to do.  You need to come up with a sticky idea and shape the environment and then work with your team.
  • Gladwell offered interested readers the gateway to working on change. If you are ready, you have the opportunity to add more to your Leadership Toolbox.  Because you just never know when you might need to fix a broken window.

 


Gladwell, M. (2006). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference . Little, Brown and Company.

~ Thanks to Eric Hufnagel, Superintendent of Learning NESD, for recommending this book. 

Image – Screenshot from Amazon.ca

Body Language- What you are really saying…

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are ~ Amy Cuddy

TED Talk
Interactive Transcript

One of my favourite TED Talks, okay I have lots of favourite TED Talks.  It turns out what you can learn in 18 minutes truly change your life.  This one in fact has impacted my daily interactions and lead me to attend more workshops on non-verbal communication.  Did you know how you carry yourself and how you stand can change not only the way you think about yourself but the hormone levels in your body?  Strong leaders are able to clearly communicate their message and this includes the non-verbal aspects, as well. I do have to warn you, once you learn more about body language it has the potential to change the way you see the world.  Do you think two minutes of power posing can change how you feel? Are you ready?

Cuddy noted in her 2012 TED Talk that “we make sweeping judgement and inferences from body language” (time 2.04).  From deciding whether or not we like someone, to whether a physician is nice (turns out nice Doctors are sued less often) or if we will vote for a political candidate,  those seconds before you speak shape lasting impressions. As a social scientist, Cuddy wondered “do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?” (time 6:57). Can you fake till you make it?

By examining levels of “testosterone, which is the dominance hormone, and cortisol, which is the stress hormone” (time 7:57), Cuddy tracked hormone levels in both powerful and powerless people.  Research showed that “powerful and effective leaders also have high testosterone and low cortisol” (time 7:57). Based on her team’s experiments, Cuddy had people pose in high power and low power poses for two minutes prior to the testing of hormone levels and then in the second experiment an independent panel of body language experts evaluated them during an intense interview.  What she found was that 2 minutes of power posing (think wonder women) changes your hormone levels.  Power posing increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, whereas weaker poses like hunching over and checking your phone in the waiting room have the opposite effect (Time 11:44).

Cuddy explained “that our bodies can change our minds and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes” (15:35). Anyone can be a leader but part of that is in our minds.  People respond to our non verbal communication, so paying attention to the signals you are sending makes a difference in the congruency of the messages you convey.  As Amy Cuddy says, “don’t fake it till you make it.   Fake it till you become it” (time 19:14).

Leadership Connections: 

The more I learn about body language the more I understand how  nonverbal communication impacts our daily interactions.  Many leadership theories talk about the charisma and other dominant characteristics of leaders, while only a few acknowledge body language directly.  It’s importance is embedded into every interaction a leader has with a follower.  In fact, Cuddy explains that if one person has bigger body language the other person doesn’t mirror it rather they do the opposite and become smaller (4:55). Learning how to read the nonverbal signals in the room isn’t easy and learning how to respond is even harder but in the end your conscious body language choices will become more automatic and you will change your relationships with those around you.

Now imagine yourself as a teacher or team leader that’s aware of  body language.  The ability to consciously share the strategies with those around you has the potential to change their self-confidence. It has the potential to transform your team.


TED Talk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – Amy Cudy
Interactive Transcript