3 Steps to Pitch an Idea like Malcolm Gladwell

malcom-gladwell
Author Malcolm Gladwell. Photo by Slate.

The Tipping Point is a business book that sold 2.5 million copies. In it, author Malcolm Gladwell pitches a theory on epidemics called the Tipping Point. This blog post attempts to reverse engineer the process Gladwell took to explain his idea.

Explaining an idea is hard. My favorite articles on the Engel Journal blog are ideas, and readers often ignore them. Reflecting on my work, I asked, “What can Gladwell teach me about selling my ideas?” I found the answer in the opening pages of the Tipping Point.

Here are three steps Gladwell took to lead readers through his theory on epidemics:

Step 1. Tell unrelated stories 

Gladwell opens with two unexpected epidemics of the 1990s: the emergence of Hush Puppies in haute couture and the dramatic drop in New York City crime.

Step 2. Find underlying similarities

The rise of Hush Puppies and the fall of New York City crime are examples of contagious, little changes in behavior. These little changes produced big effects in one dramatic moment.

Step 3. Name the idea

Gladwell gives us a name to remember this dramatic moment after walking down the runways of haute couture and the now-safe alleys of New York. He calls it the Tipping Point.

By page 8, Gladwell is recasting the world through the lens of the Tipping Point. It is no wonder his book became a bestseller. I’m going to give it another read. Alas, I look forward to making my ideas easier to follow.

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