Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tipping Point 2: The Unusual

Tipping Point Part 2: The Unusual
This story runs into two parts. Click here for part 1.

My Plate – Your Plate: I noticed this before reading Tipping Point. There is this hotel next to our office where tables are full with working people during lunch hours and a common food ordered by everyone – Mini Meals. I am not the biggest fan of monotony. The tipping takes place like this.

All the tables are cramped with hungry, sweat drenched, Axe-laden males and rare females. They are really not in love with the sultry weather – neither the super-tired fan (ceiling fans!). They want to fill their bellies and run back to their air conditioned offices, they do not have time to be creative but a quick suggestion will do. When waiter comes, you need to shout at the top of your voice to get his attention. Everyone shouts – what else – “Mini Meals”. I try twice but the waiter does not find me a subject for mercy and moves away. He is now far away (still in the hotel) from me… I feel embarrassed, and I shout like a guy who is embarrassed, “Hey waiter! One Masala Dosa (another type of food), please” and it tips.

I feel happy to find early adopters by the time my order comes and by the time I leave, I can see a mature market for Masala Dosa.

I am cold. Me too! This phenomenon is same as the lunch tipping, the difference here is, that the people are constrained by the thinking that they might be contradicting other people’s wish. I am talking about night train journeys in sleeper class at in mild cold season when most of the people feel cold while fan is running but they do not take any step to switch the fan off thinking that they are the only who is inconvenienced by the fan.

I noticed this many times. What happens is as soon as I start feeling cold, I ask the person closest to switch to fan-switch to turn it off… It involves shouting and repeating the intention. In following minutes I hear people asking the same in neighboring compartments… and it is successive enough to feel like triggering chain reaction.

Fire Walk: Recently, I went to a seminar where organizers claimed that they will make people (ordinarily available bipedal human being) walk on broken glass and flaming fire. I thought it is doable, but did think that they will pump a lot of funda, boosting talk and some technique. But they did not. I went there thinking a long session of platonic talk to divert our brain from concentrating on the real danger of burning and cutting, but all they did is, they placed a seven feet bed of coal, poured gasoline heavily, flamed it and said casually, “walk!”

I got crazy. 30 seconds of burning fire, no one walked, and all were cold feet [he he … this phrase does not suit here]. Now, the coals has become real red rubies and I, for a split second, though to just run through and finish this drama but consciousness was on denial. And, I guess everyone had this surge of thought to go through in a quick movement and end it (and be the burnt feet hero).

45 seconds. And one of them got surge and could not hold… ran through. There was no need of organizer to encourage, it had already been tipped. People went through in succession. They added more and more gasoline (when I walked the first time, flames were coming up to my lap) but once tipped the suppressant like this did not work. The same thing happened with ‘walk on broken glass’ and ‘stand on nail bed’ events.

This story runs into two parts. Here is part 1 >>

Tipping Point 1: Usual Tipping

Tipping Point Part 1: Usual Tipping
This story runs into two parts. Click Here for part 2.

Marla Singer. I, once again, got reminded of Marla Singer. But I resisted playing Marla this time. I was standing opposite to Bangalore City railway station and I needed to cross the road to make it to the station. In less than two minutes, more than twenty people gathered at either sides of the road and they were in the same mindset – “jump cross the road as soon as rush of speedy vehicles gets a break.” And it never happened.

Few more moments of wait and someone decided to commit suicide and started walking casually – well, the suggestion worked, everyone joined him and it tipped –a momentary halt in racing vehicle as if there was a red signal.

Power of Suggestion makes it possible to tip an event – Tipping Point says so. I have some non-utterly-boring incidences where I think I can relate what I read in the book, Tipping point. They all point to power of suggestion part of the book.

Uncontrolled Traffic: There are quite a few very deadly crossroads on Poonamallee High Road, Chennai with overloaded traffic, self-assumed-smart vehicle drivers and thinking-over-smart pedestrians and this phenomena tip almost in every 4 of 10 red signals.

Red signal is yet at 35 second in down timer, at this moment there was a momentary slack in orthogonal traffic and a daring self-assumed-smart bike rider zips through it – A suggestion. Now tipping point, every one joins the bike rider and crisscross, honk-honk, shout-shout…

The same thing happens at 09:50 onward at night but with one difference, the suggestion is a commonly known fact that traffic lights will be in yellow-mode (that means see-and-cross, decision is yours) at 10 o’clock. And 09:50 PM is the tipping time for all non-major traffic signals.

Real Boring Habit can Tip: I lived 10 months dwindling in different private hostels in Chennai. The arrangement is like this, the hostel is nothing but a 2 bedroom, one hall, one kitchen (basically all except restrooms are converted to bedroom) apartment which is so strategically situated that no one wants to buy this or accept as rent. People who stay have one of the two main reasons to accept this. One, they do not have money and two, they have one or more attributes like they are ultimate lazy, totally unplanned, short stay or have no friends in Chennai.

No matter what the reason is, once in hostel they realize that they have been paying more for less, feel cheated. So, how to recover? Simple, utilize resources to the maximum – watch TV 24 hours, take bath two times (well, that’s a requirement sometimes), over eat et-cetera.

I read book occasionally. Reading anything was assumed to be most miserable thing to do in hostels – people become sympathetic to you. The other activity that we used to do, when not wasting resources, was, to talk – and we talk a lot. During one of the discussions, I kept on quoting different books wherever required. For some unknown reasons, people really liked it. And within a week, TV hours reduced, people started going to Landmark (bookshop) with me, borrowing books and most of them started a book. Phenomena tipped. The readers in the hostel had shot from one occasional reader to one occasional reader plus five enthusiasts, from 12.5% market share to 75% market share.

The reverse happened as well. Enthusiast dropped as quickly as they adopted. It happened something like this. I paused reading for one very busy month. I could see no one’s bookmark had shifted a page. I, finally, shifted to a new place and whenever I go back to the hostel – the bookmark still stays where it was, when I left the place.

This story runs into two parts. Part 2 >>