No. 440


The human mind is the single greatest agency to ever appear on the face of the earth. From this small mass of gray matter has hatched every idea, every invention, every product and every service that has ever been used by human kind since the beginning of recorded history. Yet with all of the minds marvelous and mysterious powers, it is limited by what goes into it. The English critic and teacher, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), had this to say about the human mind. He stated so long ago, "The human mind is a barren soilÑa soil which is soon exhausted, and will produce no cropÉunless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter." Thoughts of this nature have given rise to the saying, "A human mind that has been stretched by a new idea can never again return to its original shape."

When I was up in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania recently, as a guest of the Record Herald Newspaper, I had the opportunity to get to know Barry Dallara, Superintendent of the Waynesboro Public Schools. During a luncheon with several of his associates and some friends from "TV Tune-In," USA he told me about a book called, "The Tipping Point" written by Malcolm Gladwell. After lunch, Barry had a courier come by the paper and bring me information about this book. I will always be indebted to him for going out of his way to do this.

The Tipping Point contains a wealth of new ideas and it has certainly stretched my mind. It would be a valuable addition to any person's library. This 280-page treatise advances the concept that often little things can make a big difference. The author gives a wide array of examples where seemingly small, insignificant events turned out to be the "tipping point" that opened the floodgates for the proliferation of new products, trends and even social and economic epidemics. In the course of his work, the author also talks about The Three Rules of Epidemics, The Law of The Few: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen, The Stickiness Factor, The Power of Context and case studies on Rumors, Suicide and Smoking, plus many more.

One example of The Tipping Point is the true story of Hush PuppiesÑthe classic American brushed-suede shoes with the lightweight crepe sole. The Tipping Point came somewhere between late 1994 and early 1995. The brand had been all but dead until that point. Sales were down to just 30,000 pairs a year and the company was thinking of phasing them out. But then something strange happened. At a fashion shoot, two Hush Puppies executives ran into a stylist from New York who told them that the classic Hush Puppies had suddenly become hip in the clubs and bars of downtown Manhattan. These executives were told that people were going to the Ma and Pa stores and buying them up.

By the fall of 1995, things began to happen in a whirlwind. First the designer, John Bartlett, called and wanted to use Hush Puppies in his Spring Collection. Then one designer after another called with the same request. To make a long story short, in 1995 the company sold 430,000 pairs of shoes and the next year it sold four times that amount and the year after still more. The amazing thing is that The Tipping Point came when just a handful of kids in the East Village and Soho started wearing them. They didn't do it deliberately; they were just wearing them because no one else would wear them.

Another Tipping Point came regarding crime in New York City. Gangs ran rampant in the city and in 1992 there were 2154 murders and 626,182 serious crimes. But then something strange happened. At some mysterious and critical point, the crime rate began to turn. It tipped. Within five years, murders had dropped 64.3% to 770 and serious crimes had fallen by almost half to 335,893. The real question is why? The changes in the drug trade, population and the economy are all long-term trends, happening all over the country, and they don't explain why it all happened in New York City in such and extraordinarily short time.

There were many reasons for this turnaround, but if you can think back to 1984 when a young man by the name of Bernhard Goetz shot four teenagers in a subway who were trying to rob him, it signaled the Tipping Point. Someone had finally stood up to thugs and gang members and during the trials that followed; Goetz became a symbol of a particular dark moment in New York City history. Now it's one of the safest cities in the country. There is so much in this book that would be of value to any person. But be Careful: You may TIP it over. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)