Is the tipping point toast?

February 12, 2008

"If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one--and if it isn't, then almost no one can," Watts concludes. To succeed with a new product, it's less a matter of finding the perfect hipster to infect and more a matter of gauging the public's mood. Sure, there'll always be a first mover in a trend. But since she generally stumbles into that role by chance, she is, in Watts's terminology, an "accidental Influential."

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Mind you, Watts does agree that some people are more instrumental than others. He simply doesn't think it's possible to will a trend into existence by recruiting highly social people. The network effects in society, he argues, are too complex--too weird and unpredictable--to work that way. If it were just a matter of tipping the crucial first adopters, why can't most companies do it reliably?

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