When I finished plotting the global value movements from scene to scene for The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, the first thing that popped out was how well Gladwell put into practice what he speaks so clearly about in the book itself.  Specifically, the necessity of putting the “clues” of your Story in the proper order.

Here’s my down and dirty sketch of the Worldview Revelation Genre of The Tipping Point in Blue ink and the Action Adventure Genre in Red Ink.  See how the book lives primarily in the “positive?”  And when it does dip below the X-axis, it does so quickly and moves back above the negativity shortly thereafter.  That’s not a coincidence.

Down and Dirty Middle Build Story Grid for The Tipping Point

Down and Dirty Middle Build Story Grid for The Tipping Point


If Gladwell were to have opened up his book with his chapter about the horrific vigilante actions of Bernard Goetz in New York City’s subway, how many of his readers would have had the stomach to keep reading on?  The Goetz chapter is a crucial “clue” he uses to explain his Big Idea about Tipping Points, but if he’d put it in the wrong place in the book, he’d have lost his audience.

Instead, Gladwell wisely decided to focus on the “positive” material inherent in his argument early on in his work.  He dissects the nature of the different kinds of people necessary to build a tipping point (connectors, mavens, and salesmen) and gives us terrific little stories about these wonderful eccentrics before he gets near the “negative” core of arguments. He uses fun little bits of research and a lots of shoe leather to build up the personalities of the people he profiles, connecting us to the material emotionally…before he goes anywhere near the heavy dark stuff.

The negative “clues” that support his argument about Tipping Points are those not so pleasant realities concerning human fallibility and our dependence upon “context” when choosing whether to act or not.    As well as our susceptibility to subtle unspoken persuasion. Again, if Gladwell had led with these un-pleasantries, we’d be less inclined to continue reading.

All of this crucial “clue” seeding in the middle build…dipping our toes into the darkness every now and then…prepares us for the difficult life/death issues that make up his ending payoff.

Here’s the Mongo version of the Middle Build:


I’ll wrap up the Ending Payoff of The Tipping Point next week. Whew!

  • Mary Doyle

    It would be interesting to know how much of this was instinctual on Gladwell’s part versus editorial feedback. Thanks for another fascinating post!

    • Yes … and also how much was not instinctual, but that Gladwell could catch himself with analysis.

  • Very helpful. I can use this. A brilliant post. Thanks again.

  • David Ward

    yes, another post of enormous value to me. i’m learning lots, and, your contributions also help to validate stuff i understand intuitively, but don’t know why. thanks so much.