Change Theory: Gladwell's Tipping Point

Group Members: Kathryn Anderson, Kerri-Lee Langer, Tyler Pollard

Welcome to our presentation about Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point.  Please scroll down this page to learn about his Malcolm's life, the Tipping Point Theory, the factors which influence the Tipping Point, how the Tipping Point relates to other theories as well as his critics.  The buttons marked in [purple] identify additional sources which you may view during your own time should you desire to learn more and are supplementary to the main part of the presentation.  

Malcolm Gladwell Canadian journalist and author of four bestselling books was born in England on Sept. 3, 1963 with Jamaican roots (Gladwell, 2012). He and his family immigrated to Canada and he was raised in Elmira Ontario (Gladwell, 2012). Gladwell graduated from The University of Toronto, Trinity College with a degree in History (Gladwell, 2012). Due to poor grades he decided to pursue a career in advertising but was unable to find work in this field. Gladwell finally secured a job in journalism with, The American Spectator moving on to the Washington Post and finally The New Yorker in 1996 (Gladwell, 2012). While working for The New Yorker Gladwell was asked to write a piece on high fashion, but instead he decided to independently write on the manufacturing of low cost T-shirts. The article gained him instant recognition and inspired him to later write an article on the tipping point which lead to the publication of his first book, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference” in 2000. Gladwell decided to write this book because of the high level of crime in New York. He wanted to look at crime differently than those around him so he began to view it through an epidemiology lens (Gladwell, 2012). The title of his book comes from when an epidemic reaches critical mass and begins to extend to the population at an accelerated speed. In his book Gladwell suggests that there is a single point where the epidemic takes hold and at this moment there is a sudden change in thought and practice (Hawthorne, 2000). This is the tipping point. Gladwell further relates this to better understand the terminology as how ideas and products spread throughout society (Adams, 2008). An example of this type of epidemic could be, fax machines in 1987 or the mobile phone in 1998 (Thompson, 2000).

Gladwell later went on to write 4 more books, ‘Blink: The power of thinking without thinking (2005), ‘Outliers: The story of success (2008) and ‘What the dog saw: and other adventures’ (2009). David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits & the art of battling giants (2013). His books deal with research in the areas of psychology, social sciences and sociology (Gladwell, 2012). Gladwell was appointed to the Order of Canada on June 30, 2011 (Gladwell, 2012).

What is the Tipping Point?

The Tipping Point Theory

A theory created by Malcolm Gladwell that captures the perfect combination of “rights” (the right people, the right time, the right idea). When all of these “rights” are aligned, it allows for what was in place to drastically change and for a new model to trend and spread.

The idea of a threshold is an important part of the Tipping Point. An idea or social behaviour can exist for an extended period of time, going unnoticed or seeming irrelevant, until it crosses a threshold. Transforming from underutilized to The Tipping Point Theory, proposes that this irrelevant item

3 Factors Impacting the Tipping Point Theory

1) Law of the Few

This factor examines the importance of different types of people being present and actively participating in a trend setting scenario.

Mavens - Are knowledgeable individuals, whom others view as reliable sources of information. They are confident in their information based on research that they have done.

Connectors- Are the people who have the ability to bring people together. Through networking, they help to make ideas spread from a variety of groups.

Salesmen- Are individuals who possess the ability to pitch and sell any idea. They may not know all the right people, but are able to spread a message and confidently sell a concept.

2) Stickiness Factor

This is Gladwell’s (2000) notion that for something to continue to be relevant, that it has to “stick”.

3) The Power of Context

The timing of any trend is key to its success and thus, the historical context, time and place impact the ability for something to remain relevant.

Relationships to other Theories

The Tipping Point is closely related to the Influentials Theory which has been a marketing touchstone  for 50 years (Thompson, 2008).  Influencer Marketing, also known as Influence Marketing basically targets specific key individuals (or types of individuals) who have influence over potential buyers and then orients marketing activities around these influencers rather than targeting the market as a whole.

Criticisms of the Tipping Point Theory



Adams, Tim. (2008, November 15). The man who can’t stop thinking. The Observer.   Retrieved from   interview-outliers

Gladwell, M. (2012). Retrieved 04:07, June 2, 2015 from

Gow, G. (2007, February) Malcolm Gladwell was wrong - A better theory of social networks. Crimson Marketing - Experts in technology.  Retrieved from:

Hawthorne, C., (2000). The massive outbreak of an idea. SF Gate. Retrieved from

Thompson, C. (2008, February). Is the tipping point toast?. Fast Company. Retrieved:

Thompson, D. ( 2000, May 9). Are you a maven or connector. The Telegraph. Retrieved from:

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