The Economist had a neat article on "The Tipping Point" yesterday that examined the phenomenon of thresholds in management, diseases, marketing, and other areas:
The tipping point is an expression used in epidemiology that was taken by Malcolm Gladwell, a New York Times writer, and applied to other areas of life—including business—in his 2000 book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Differenceexplains more clearly what the whole thing is about.
In epidemiology the tipping point is that moment when a small change tips the balance of a system and brings about a large change; for example, when the normal spread of influenza throughout a population suddenly turns into an epidemic. In recent years the language of epidemiology has spread (like a virus?) within business. Managers talk about viral marketing (see article), the infectious enthusiasm of their teams, and “outbreaks” of corporate greed—and even, as was reported once about JetBlue, an American low-cost airline, an “outbreak of passenger abuse”. A lot of this language owes its spread to the influence of the internet, where viruses are common and where dormant information can sometimes erupt suddenly and infect us all.
(Read the rest of the article)
I saw Malcom Gladwell speak recently, and he was great live. He was very articulate, and brought a lot of his points to life. He covered topics from the Tipping point, Outliers, and Blink. It's personally pertinent to me lately, as one of my B-school profs seems to like his ideas.