Monday, May 01, 2006

Blink and Tipping Point

I'm just going to bundle these two in the same post since they've kind of blurred together in my mind anyway, along with Linked, that I blogged about earlier. And I know I'm late to the party with the Gladwell books, so bear with me. And if you've not had a chance to read them yet, I'd say they're definitely a good real.

They are both really good, and I think if you're the kind of person who likes to observe abstract phenomena in society, you'll really dig both of them.

Now, I've reduced the thesis of Blink down to a single phrase that Gladwell uses: "thin slicing." Thin slicing means that you can do a lot with a little, so to speak, informationwise. In other words, we have so much information thrown at us on a daily, hourly, minutely basis that less is more. Thru the use of loads of examples, Gladwell explains why we can size up a situation with precision accuracy when we're given just enough information; the inverse of this is that too much information can give "analysis paralysis" and make us dumb.

Gladwell expounds on the dark side of this intuition as well, points to incidences of violence and racism and other things that happen "in the blink of an eye," as well as the beneficient elements. So he looks at the mechanism whereby this can happen, links it to survival mechanisms, long-inbred predjudices, etc.

I would say that if you're using your intuition as part of your Unique Selling Proposition at home or work, give this book a read and use it to understand better how you tick.

On to the Tipping Point, which I'm going to shamefully reduce once again. The book talks about how fads, trends, epidemics, etc. all follow the same course to spread. He talks about three kinds of people who make these things tick: Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople and points to their specialized skillsets as the thing that makes these societal phenomena really take off. Connectors are people people. They know tons of people and "collect" people the way others might collect plants or mp3s. They will see something that'll be of interest to someone they know, then they might call them up or send them an email telling them they'd be interested in thus and such. It's a category that made me think immediately of a lot of the lobbyists I know.

The maven is the person who has some freakish knowledge of something like prices or an industry or something else. Then that person connects with people thru their knowledge of that particular thing. The person loves helping people by sharing with them some of the knowledge that he/she has learned, and that person trusts the maven because he/she is so darned knowledgeable.

The salesman is also a people person but has the added gift of being able to persuade. The example Gladwell uses is a financial services guy who has a black book a mile long, knows intimately all the reasons why you should use his services, or how they'll help you PLUS he genuinely loves people. And apparently it works very well for the gentleman.

The books feel like sequels and they both get into similar veins of argument so I've grouped them together. Let me know what you thought of them.