Beyond the key ideas of the Tipping point’s theory exposed in the previous articles, there are some case studies that showcase how this theory comes into practice in the real world.
The diffusion model is an academic model of looking at how a contagious idea or innovation moves through a population. For instance, when the hybrid seed was launched to the market, the group of farmers who started trying it at first were the Innovators. The slightly larger group who were convinced by them were “the early adopters”. They were the opinion leaders in the community, a group of respected and thoughtful people who watched and analyzed what those Innovators were doing and eventually decided to follow. After them came the Early Majority and the Late Majority, the deliberate and the skeptical mass, who would never try anything until the most respected ones had tried it first. Finally there came the Laggards, the most conservative of all, who see no urgent reason to change. Plotting that progression on a graph, it forms a perfect epidemic curve –starting slowly, tipping just as the Early Adopters start using the seed, then rising sharply as the Majority catches on.
But many times the contagious spread of a new idea is actually quite tricky. There is a substantial difference between the people who originate trends and ideas, and the people in the Majority group who eventually adopt them. These two groups may be next to each other on the word-of-mouth continuum. But they don’t communicate particularly well. The first two groups –the Innovators and Early Adopters- are visionaries. They want revolutionary change, something that sets them apart qualitatively from their competitors. They are the people who buy brand-new technology, before it’s been perfected or even proved, or before the price has gone down. They usually have small companies and are just starting out, willing to take enormous risks.
The Early Majority, instead, are big companies. They have to worry about any change fitting into their complex business structure. If the goal of visionaries is to make a quantum leap forward, the goal of pragmatists is to make a incremental improvement, some measurable and predictable progress. The word risk is negative in their vocabulary.
Innovations don’t just slide effortlessly from one group to the next. There is a huge gap between them. Actually, all kinds of high-tech products fail, never making it beyond the Early Adopters, because the companies that make them are not always able to scale them to the mainstream market, just because it’s not appealing enough to the Early Majority.
Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen are those who make it possible for innovations to bridge over the gap between both groups. They translate ideas and information from the highly specialized world of the innovators into a mainstream language that everybody can understand. What they do is to highlight the aspects that most matter to the audience, exemplifying through storytelling how the idea could change their lives, dropping the unnecessary information and technical details that could only lead to confusion.
The Innovators fit a different personality type. They feel different. If you ask people what worries them the most, the trendsetters pick up on bigger-picture things, whereas the mainstream people think about being overweight, or how well they are doing at work. They are passionate activists to some extent.
When trying to use the Tipping Point theory to craft a strategy to create some kind of social epidemics, like engaging and gaining stakeholder support to the destination business model, is that efforts have to be concentrated in three groups of people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen, so long as they are responsible for starting word-of-mouth epidemics.
We then have to prepare a message that sticks, which can actually be a story, no matter how short we make it. The learning outcomes of the storytelling technique from previous articles and Whitepapers are essential to understand how the human psychology works in order to create emotional connections with our target audience and move them to take action in the direction we want.
We finally have to understand the power of context, that regardless of our thinking about ourselves as autonomous and inner-directed, we are actually strongly influenced by our social and physical environment, and so all the environment factors matter when preparing for the tipping point to happen.
It’s particularly interesting to take into account the rule of 150 when choosing the target audience, so long as it can be split into blocks in accordance with this parameter, to ensure its receptivity to the message. Working thoughtfully on these points we can shape the course of social epidemics. In the end, Tipping Points are no more than a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action.
If you are interested in further insights about this topic, I strongly recommend you to read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”, where you will also find many case studies that illustrate all the concepts and theories among other interesting content.