This column, as some of you recognize, references Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point.1 I was impressed, as most readers have been, with Gladwell's keen ability to articulate his self-described "intellectual adventure story" in a concise manner. Gladwell's original article, written in 1996 for the New Yorker, popularized the idea that some problems behave like infectious agents - requiring problem solvers to change their mind-set in order to solve them.

The term "tipping point" comes from epidemiologist's descriptions of where (in time, volume or other characteristics) an ordinary and stable phenomenon transforms into something that makes a big difference - a crisis. Using a number of examples, Gladwell correctly claims that understanding the "fundamental lesson of nonlinearity" will help society better understand a greater number of currently puzzling concepts, ranging from violent crime statistics to lessons "about the fate of modern liberalism." These give rise to different ways of dealing with the associated problems.

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