Garvan Gallan on "Tipping point"

Every month at our regular slot on Newstalk, we get a Bookbuzz client to talk about a business book that has influenced them and why.

Garvan Callan

Garvan Callan, the Director of Customer, Digital & Innovation of Bank of Ireland picked “Tipping point”

Tipping point

“Tipping point” is probably in the back pocket of every marketeer and social media expert today. It is a book that really has become mainstream. It’s a very simple title and focusses on how can small things make big impact in life and in business.

Leadership and story telling

As a leader you got to have a story to tell. In Garvan’s view, shaping context, understanding the people you want to influence and timing are crucial. So if you’re in business and you are trying to turn an idea from a model into mainstream, there are three rules that Gladwell is putting forward.

3 lessons
“Tipping point” has three key lessons:

  • You need the right type of person to champion the idea.
  • The story needs to be sticky
  • The idea needs to be embedded in the right context

In the book he uses lots of examples, from the American War of Independence, Airwalk (remember them?), Colombia records, Sesame Street and the “Broken Window” theory.

Connectors, mavens and sales people
The right person needs to have an extensive network and needs to have a good reputation. They are the connectors (or brand ambassadors in marketing terms). They are the idea conduits.

Next you need the content curators. The people who help inform opinion and spread the information. They are called the mavens.

And the last group you need is people who get other people to act. The persuaders or sales people.

To reach tipping point, you need all three groups to get involved. Since Malcolm Gladwell wrote this book, many others have written about this. From Brian Solis (“Engage”) to Joshua Klein (“Reputation economics”) and Mark Sheafer (“Return on influence”) and it is now part of every social media marketeers handbook.

Stand out story
The second part of the recipe is the stickiness of the story. It needs to be memorable and it needs to stand out. Which was easier in 2000 then it is in 2014.

It is the art of story telling. Bernadette Jiwa talks about the USP (Unique Story Point). We wrote about it here

To stand out is very, very difficult. The only thing that still cuts through all the noise, is a good story. And it is surprising how bad most organisations are at telling that story.

The power of context
The last lesson is the power of context. It is the environmental, community or group aspect. And small things matter. Hence the example of the broken window policy in New York. Gladwell also talks about context from an organisational perspective and again is way ahead there.

Organisational design
He explains the need for small, flexible organisations for stories to travel, in order to stay cohesive and is using GoreTex as the example. His magic number is 150, which is still a lot larger then the “two pizza rule” from “The connected company”.

His point is not organisational design, but the importance of creating the right environment and how we are much more influenced by the environment then we care to think. Which is why suicide can become contagious. Which why fixing windows can have an impact on crime rates.

Social capital as a business tool
The trick is to use social capital as a business tool and is incredibly effective if you can crack it. “Join the club” talks about this in the context of anti-smoking, AIDS and other awareness campaigns, but you can see the potential for business to apply the same principles. Which is why they are all trying to build communities.

Speaking of contagious. “Contagious” by Jonah Berger was inspired by “Tipping point” and expands even further on what makes things popular. Instead of 3 lessons, he describes six features (STEPPS):

  1. Social currency
  2. Triggers
  3. Emotion
  4. Public
  5. Practical
  6. Stories

There has been some controversy about the book. The main criticism is that the book is too simplistic. Maybe it is. If you are an academic it might. However,  if you want a quick lesson in how to get things to go viral and want to go back to the source of the first author who wrote about this in a simple, understandable way, this is the book.

In fact, it is the hall mark of Gladwell; making things simple and understandable. Not necessarily scientific, because that would get in the way of a good story. In some ways he has applied the lessons in “Tipping point” to all his other books. It works.

More relevant today

“Tipping point” was written in 2000, but it is more relevant today. In a wold of noise, information overload and increasing data equals tougher job to get more cut through. So that for Garvan this is why the book is even more important today than it was in the past.

Do you want to be on Newstalk radio?

If you want to be on Newstalk radio to talk about your favourite business book, drop us a line. E-mail


sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
× How can I help you?