Reflection of The Tipping Point by a Mediator
Little Things Can Make a Big Difference -
The Tipping Point, By Malcolm Gladwell
Blog by Wayne Marriott
point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a
threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can
start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push
cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime
rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and
brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the
way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.”
Having read the
book some years hence, I sought out the audio version of this valuable gem.
This following information is my review of the book for your enjoyment. I hope
it whets your appetite sufficiently to seek your own copy and enjoy Gladwell’s
writing as much as I have.
You can find
the iTunes version of the book here.
So, why should conflict management practitioners
take on Gladwell’s glad-tidings?
I’m a conflict resolution service provider. My unique skill and ability is for sale.
Regrettably the craft of practitioners like me is undervalued by a market
sector that believe when they get into conflict, the dispute belongs to the
other party and seldom accept much personal responsibility in the cause nor the
resolution of their dispute. “I’m not in dispute. I’m right and they are
wrong”. I find most of my clientele have become so immersed in their dispute
they can no longer see a way through. In their exhaustion, they simply transfer
responsibility of resolution to a lawyer or worse still, rollover allowing the
other party to exert more power than should normally be afforded to them. All of this can lead to destructive conflict escalation.
searching for an edge toward success in my conflict management practice.
Something that I could use as a guide in the market place frequented by fickle
and grumpy consumers who don’t yet know what they need, nor want. How can I
help people overcome this conflict blindness? What marketing ideas will create
a change in the way consumers deal with dispute? I see this book as a tool to
reflect and find a solution to improve my conflict resolution practice.
Biography of an idea – 4 principles
Point described by Gladwell is the biography of an idea. For the communication
of an idea (the message) to create change: the messenger must be a connector;
the message must be in context and the message needs to stick, that is,
personal, memorable, and practical. Simplistic, the change must be the easiest
As conflict resolution practitioners, we can harness Gladwell’s vision to help guide a personal
business approach to transform our practice and strengthen our industry with
strategies designed to build capability across our client sector, communities, organization, etc.
that provoke change demonstrate 4 principles:
1. Associated with contagious behaviour
2. Little change = big effect
3. Significant change will occur in one
4. Principle 4 - making sense of 1 and 2 above in these four parts:
i. Demonstrates geometric progression like
that of a viral epidemic
ii. The unexpected must be expected – where
radical change is more than a possibility
iii. There are three agents of change.
iv. Word of mouth epidemics become
Agents of change
agents of change are essential elements of ideas that provoke social change
1. The law of the few – key people who
demonstrate: exceptional skills; energy; sociable nature and knowledge.
Gladwell calls them:
c. Salesmen (although I prefer to describe
these folk as persuaders)
2. The stickiness factor – ideas that make
an impact (change behaviour) and stay top of mind (popular across the culture)
3. The power of context – where the tipping
point is reached owing to tinkering with even the smallest detail.
The law of the few – who are they and what do they
The success of
any social epidemic is heavily dependent on people with a particular set of
skills. Change will occur more readily when these three specialist come
together. Gladwell makes clear that these few do not exist in every team,
community or organization. With this in mind we must remember that teams,
communities and organizations must ensure these exceptional skills are present.
For sole practitioners who beat a solitary drum and attempt to develop the
entire skill set, an important lesson is to collaborate with key people to
ensure the tipping point is reached and change assured.
defines Connector; Mavens and Persuaders as follows:
a. Connectors AKA people specialists.
These folk have great contacts. They prove, it’s
not what you know but who you know. They give the rest of us access to
opportunities and worlds that we ordinarily don’t belong. Effective people
specialists rank highly in a six degrees of separation where not all the
degrees are equal. Gladwell describes the circle of friends is actually a
pyramid where key individuals simply know lots of people of all different ilk
and move between cultures with ease. He says that weak ties can net more worth
than strong ties. This means that our acquaintances are stronger allies than
our friends and relatives. (Gladwell discusses his six degrees theory and Kevin Bacon here http://gladwell.com/six-degrees-of-lois-weisberg/ )
b. Mavens AKA information specialists.
These folk are accumulators of knowledge. We rely
on mavens as information brokers. They are the experts in their field and we
pay them tremendous respect as our go-to people on specifics topics. Gladwell
says that mavens’ are socially motivated and seldom demonstrate strength in
c. Persuaders AKA communication
Tuned in to cultural micro-rhythms, persuaders
demonstrate mastery of a specialized human trait where listening and intervention
is as synchronous as a conductor of an orchestra. With perfect timing, they
listen, interrupt and become interactional as if in tune with most everyone
When Mavens and Connectors amongst us get together.
mavens demonstrate success when they collaborate with connectors who are
innovators. Connector-innovators are trend setters. They often feel they are
isolated – even outcasts. They are also pioneers who see a bigger picture. They
are passionate and readily become engaged in various forms of activism.
When mavens and
connector-innovators get together a more coherent picture comes clear. The
fresh broadened view ensures a more complete analysis is not influenced by
those with an insular and biased outlook.
Maybe this is
why conflict management innovators (or any professional group or social
enterprise) are more often engaged in change processes across their sector.
They create change by incremental steps that might otherwise not seem
connected. The resulting tipping point comes with radical and rapid change to
the surprise of those around them whilst the pioneers go unrecognized.
If this is you,
(pat on back) then you will already be broadening the scope of your craft to
provide consumers with flexibility, strengthening the action of your profession
and changing culture. You will be making change the easy choice, as Gladwell suggests,
redefining innovation as mainstream. See the Mediate2Go blog on enhancing
customer service in conflict resolution.
Afterword by Malcolm Gladwell.
“A book is a
living and breathing document that grows richer with each new reading”. Malcolm
An added strength
of the audio version is Gladwell’s personal afterword where he shares fresh
insight into his vision. He says that:
and challenging change is best tackled by a close knit group.
increasing significance of the social media culture means we must rely more on
the power of word-of –mouth of our mavens, connectors and persuaders.
He also says
that since writing The Tipping Point he can add fresh insight.
1. Understanding the rise of isolation.
2. Beware the rise of immunity.
3. Finding the mavens.
Understanding the rise of isolation.
these days seem to follow an internal cultural script where they are infected
by the example of how others experience and react to conflict and dispute. The
resulting contagious behaviour in the population requires a counter response
toward the tipping point to conflict competence. Only then will we overcome our underlying
anxieties that fuel unhealthy hysterical social behaviour.
Beware the rise of immunity.
The power of
word-of-mouth becomes more valuable as the message epidemic is prolonged. This
is counter-intuitive to normal economics where scarcity drives an increase in
value and wealth. Gladwell opines that
increasing network size is self-limiting as we become immune to the share volume
of messages directed at us about more things we have little interest in. The
key to reducing immunity is to reach people face-to-face. This relies on us valuing those in our teams,
communities and organizations we respect admire and trust. The cure for immunity is
engaging with our mavens, connectors and persuaders.
Finding the mavens.
it, “creating the maven trap”.
People look up
to mavens, connectors and persuaders (The law of the few) because they
naturally value respect and standing amongst friends and colleagues. They are
less impressed with status and wealth. In particular the mavens we value are
able to break through the rising tide of isolation and immunity because:
prefer direct communication, face-to-face.
messages will be carefully constructed to attract the maven group in each
sector, community and organization.
suggests that finding and collaborating with a widened maven group will hasten
the process toward the tipping point of change.
What ideas and
great works are you considering? Can you identify the mavens are around you?
When will you formalize a strategy to bring together your connectors, mavens
How to use
Gladwell’s book to improve conflict resolution for both clients and mediators.
My mission from
now is to consider my colleagues in terms of Gladwell’s classification.
1. Write a list of colleagues you admire
and respect and consider if they are mavens, connectors or persuaders. (Many of
these folk will have strengths in each)
2. Make a plan on making contact with each
individual and set about securing a face to face meeting with them.
3. Use the meeting to gather information
about their values. Talk with them about what you are working on and introduce
the Gladwell readings.
4. Ask questions such as:
1. What values do mediators share? (This is
your maven trap – mavens will wax lyrical on their view of this.)
3. Without undermining the competitive
nature of our practice, how can we work together to grow the size of the
4. Would you be willing to join a think
tank / working party to discuss 1, 2 and 3 above?
5. Then plan and implement your think tank
meeting with your mavens, connectors and persuaders. Have them consider:
6. What would it be like to work together?
7. Which environments are in most need of
8. What challenges will we face?
9. How will we overcome the challenges?
will we know we are making a difference?
11.What commitments do we need to make
together to take another step? (Who, what, how, when, why)
mediation colleagues are for in intents and purposes competitors for a fairly
limited pie of referrals, by embracing Gladwell’s concepts we can work together
to grow the size of the pie. By working together our client base can encompass
a broadened foundation of communities, sectors and organizations that will
benefit from embracing their own mavens, connectors and persuaders. They simply
need our guidance to show them.
Connect with Wayne Marriott, Mediator
information, please read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point and reach
me on Mediate2go via Secure Message here.
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