Have tipping points reached their own tipping point?

Gone ViralAre we at a tipping point for tipping points? TEDxOrangeCoast friend, economist and author David Friedman thinks that just might be the case. David writes…

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called The Tipping Point. At that time, many of us thought it referred to diffusion and acceptance of new products or a random idea that turned into something viral and/or global. Over the past 13 years, much has changed and the concept of a tipping point has come to mean more than in the past. In fact, if we look around, I believe we are seeing more tipping points for causes and ideas. Why is that?

Let’s start by defining a tipping point. A tipping point is that moment when an idea, concept, product or cause spreads like wildfire. Today a tipping point is easier to attain because of several trends, mostly spawned by the Internet. I like to use the acronym IOPEN to capture the essence of the underpinnings to a tipping point – Information (I), Opportunity (O), Publication (P) and Engagement (EN). To better understand the activity leading up to a tipping point, let’s explore each of these drivers.


Information is everywhere. It sounds trite but think about the combination of the Internet coupled with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets making that information available to the masses.   When Gladwell’s book was first published there were only 360 million Internet users, representing less than 6% of the world population. Today, there are more than 2.9 billion Internet users in the world, a little more than 40% of the entire population.

In 2000, there were basically no social sharing websites. Certainly there were some community sites and the computer literate were sharing information. There were no smartphones or tablets and laptops were clunky. Even in 2005, less than 5% of Internet users were using social networking sites. Just for perspective, the number of smartphone users today is approximately 1.75 billion and number of tablets sold just last year was over 200 million with many people having multiple devices at their beck and call. Today information abounds, ready to be shared as more than 74% of all adults that are online use a networking site. Just look around and see how many people carry a laptop, smartphone and tablet at the same time. (FYI, I am one of them and if I don’t have all three devices with me, I always seem to have two at the ready.) Information access and sharability play a key role in the growing momentum of a tipping point.

Check back for David’s next post as he explores opportunity and publication as additional catalysts in reaching a tipping point.


Posted on: September 6th, 2014 | Posted in: TED News