I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Tipping Point, storytelling, and good communication

I just finished The Tipping Point, which I really enjoyed. I doubt I have much new to add to the reams that has been blogged about Malcolm Gladwell's thesis, so I don't plan to comment on that. I did however try to think about why I liked the book so much (and immediately launched into Blink).

He does have a pretty interesting argument for how and why social epidemics happen. But I think what is just as important, if not more so, is the fact that he is very good at communicating. For one, he is a good, engaging writer. Knowing how to put a sentence (or a paragraph or a chapter) isn't enough though. He engaged and convinced me because he built the book on stories. Not just a compilation of anecdotes, but verifiable, detailed stories, with names mentioned and all. Taken together, he used the individual stories to build one coherent narrative in the book as a whole. It seems like a small thing, but it is pretty powerful. I try to think about my overall narrative (or, "what's the point,") when I write and present professionally and it isn't easy to do, especially since I am interested in so many things and see the connections between them. But to make others see the connections, one strong storyline is apparently all you need.

3 comments:

Patricia McKenna said...

Alex,
I too loved The Tipping Point. I keep extra copies of that book so I can give them to my friends. I think the story that had the most influence on my was that of Lois Weisberg, the connector.
Patricia

Charu said...

I loved the book too - I could connect every story, every new term with someone I knew - either personaly or at work - for me that was the magic of that book - didn't like Blink as much though overall - but again Blink made me think of the number of times I have had an intuition about what is going on with the people / product I am researching - yet unable to form a concrete hypothesis or explain to the client!

Alex said...

I agree...sometimes I get into trouble because I can't articulate my rationale for something.