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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


During our MBA lectures, we were used to the 20-80% rule. In its simplest definition, this rule suggests that 80% of the best, effective or profitable things come from 20% of the top performers. For instance, for a bank, 80% of the profits come from 20% of the customers. Carrying this concept forward, we can notice that 80% of the most successful contracts are gained by the top 20% of the employees. The top 80% of the best research in a university is done by the top 20% of the researchers….

This concept is more articulately dealt with by Malcolm Gladwell in the first half of his bestseller “The Tipping Point”. So let me write down very briefly about the “the law of the few” and the “stickiness factor” which are described into great depths by Gladwell.

According to “the law of few”, there are exceptional people who are capable of starting social epidemics (of course, in a positive sense). Malcolm Gladwell describes the three types of exceptional people whom he addresses as “few” – Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.

In a social epidemic, Mavens are the data banks, connectors are social glue, and salesmen are those who have the skills to persuade the world when people are unconvinced of what they are hearing.

Maven is not a persuader. His motivation is to help and educate others. In the words of Gladwell “a maven is someone who solves his own problem and emotional needs by solving other people’s problems”.

Word of mouth epidemics are what connectors are really good at. Such people are socially very active are well known for contacts spanning over a wide range of professions. They need not know each of the people very closely. In fact they define their social contacts as acquaintances (or weak ties). Connectors know well the strength of such “weak ties”. The closer an idea or product comes to a connector, more the chances are that it will be successful…and spread like a wildfire. The importance of connectors is a function of both how many acquaintances they know as well as kinds of people they know. One way to appreciate the concept of “connectors” is through the “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, where not all the degrees are equal.

The interesting feature of a successful salesman is the extent to which he can be persuasive in a way quite different from his words, by the virtue of his energy and enthusiasm, carrying the philosophy of an optimist.

Though Gladwell goes much deeper in explaining the nature of these three kind of “the few” people, in the first half of Tipping point”, yet the basic theme is limited to the type and the efficacy of these people measured with the concept of stickiness. Stickiness suggests that there is a simple way to package information that can make it irresistible in the minds of the public. The more the idea stays with the public, the higher is the stickiness factor.

It is quite easy to link this concept to the real world. Just by looking out the successful people around, one can define them either as a connector or a Maven or a salesman. Some extraordinary people are three-in-one, but such breeds must be really quite rare.


rachana said...

Thats an excellent post !!! I really like your blogs & this one is something which we all know but hardly think about.


Thanks u belong to Co2008???

rachana said...

No,wish to belong to next batch. Just started studying for GMAT. Hope if I can belong to Co2009. Hope for the best...!!


Wish you my very best wishes for the GMAT and the application stage...

rachana said...

Thanks a lot for ur wishes.

wish u the best for your future. Hope u wont mind me troubling u for queries on ISB....

Hope to read more blogs from u..

Take Care


Rachana...Please feel free to write to me for any ISB related queries.

My id is as follows