Is the tipping point dead?

Is the idea of the tipping point dead? In this article, Fast Company explores the research of Duncan Watts. Watts, using social modeling, looked at the tipping point theory, and came to the conclusion that it just doesn’t work.

The tipping point has been marketing gospel for years now; expounded in a book by Malcolm Gladwell, it argues, in short, that “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social skills.” (Summary here.) Tipping point theory has been very influential in viral marketing, particularly Gladwell’s “Law of the Few,” meaning that rare, highly connected people shape the world.

Watts disagrees. I if you want the details, read the article. It’s a well-written summary of the research, and the people who disagree with the research.

I think the article should be required reading for anyone interested in behavior change or social marketing. It’s got some really great stuff on how trends are born. Considering how much of the work we do in development relates to getting people to adopt something new, it’s extremely relevant. The comments on the article are really useful, too – they are a nice microcosm of the current debate on marketing and influence.