The Hyping Point

A few readers have written in, asking me about a recent article in Fast Company about Malcolm Gladwell’s  Tipping Point and new research by Duncan Watts. (Cory’s take on it is here). Full disclosure: Duncan is brilliant, and so is Malcolm. Which is my point, I guess. Duncan’s work does nothing at all to discredit the importance of what Gladwell is saying in the Tipping Point. Mostly, I think it’s a provocative headline designed to get clicks for the magazine…

As I understand it, people are influenced by the people around them. That we act, like buffalo, in a herd. The idea that a single influential individual (even a blogger like Guy or a talk show host like Oprah) can individually change the herd is crazy, and I don’t think anyone has argued that.

What should be really clear, though, is that people with big audiences certainly count as one of the people around you. If the guy down the row at work buys a Mac Air, it counts. If Guy buys a Mac Air, it counts just as much (or possibly a bit more). If a kid in school is listening to Ini, it counts. And if you hear HotStepper on a popular radio station, it counts just as much. Since people with big audiences have more ‘friends’ and have more ‘people down the hall’, they have more influence. Not because they count for more, just because they ‘know’ more people. (Forgive the excessive use of single quotation marks, please).

Unleashing the Ideavirus didn’t spread because ‘important’ people endorsed and promoted it. It spread because passionate people did.

One more reason not to obsess about the A list in any media category. Worry instead about people with passion and people with lots of friends. You need both for ideas to spread. That was Malcolm’s point all along.