When people say, "The tipping point," they often misunderstand the concept in Malcolm's book. They're actually talking about the flipping point.
The tipping point is the sum total of many individuals buzzing about something. But for an individual to start buzzing, something has to change in that person's mind. Something flips from boredom or ignorance to excitement or anger.
It starts when the story of a brand or a person or a store or an experience flips in your head and it goes from good to bad, or from ignored to beloved. The flipping point doesn't represent the sum of public conversations, it's the outcome of an activated internal conversation.
It's easy to wish and hope for your project to tip, for it to magically become the hot thing. But that won't happen if you can't seduce and entrance an individual and then another.
Before the tipping point, someone has to flip. And then someone else. And then a hundred more someones.
We resist incremental improvement in our offerings and our stories because it just doesn't seem likely that one good interaction or one tiny alteration can possibly lead to a significant amount of flipping. And we're right—it won't. The flipping point (for an individual) is almost always achieved after a consistent series of almost invisible actions that create a brand new whole.
And the reason it's so difficult? Because you're operating on faith. You need to invest and apparently overinvest (time and money and effort) until you see the results. And most of your competition (lucky for you) give up long before they reach the point where it pays off.