The magnitude of the task that we face in re-orienting India and Indians is by no means small. What is needed is to create profound, deep and rapid change. Its something which is perhaps unimaginable. As unimaginable as the fact that, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, a piece of paper folded 50 times will reach the sun.
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”. In the book he talks about three principles which can create rapid, discontinuous change: The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor and The Power of Context. All these can combine to create epidemics. Writes Gladwell:
The best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.
Three characteristics – one, contagiousness; two, the fact that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment are the same three principles that define how measles moves through a grade-school classroom or the flu attacks every winter.
Of the three, the third trait – the idea that epidemics can rise or fall in one dramatic moment – is the most important, because it is the principle that makes sense of the first two and that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does. The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point.
The Law of the Few states that there are a few exceptional people (Mavens, Connectors, Salesmen) who can start an epidemic. The Stickiness Factor says there is a simple way to package information, that under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible – this is what makes ideas memorable, and moves us into action. According to The Power of Context, epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur.
An Epidemic of Change is exactly what is needed to transform India. India needs to Tip, Bottom-up (like Ants), and in less than 2,000 days. We will explore some ideas keeping these themes in mind next week.