Thinking About Tipping Points

December 21, 2011

Late last Sunday night I put the radio on to hear the news and was fascinated to hear that the following programme was onĀ Tipping Points, somethingĀ I’m looking into as part of developing some new ideas for understanding growth in small businesses. A nice example of serendipity!

In particular the conversation focused on a new research project:

Laurie Taylor explores the idea of the Tipping Point using a multidisciplinary project at Durham University as a springboard to examine what tipping points are, how they happen and what effect they have. Professor Tim Clark and Professor Pat Waugh from Durham University and Professor Alex Bentley from Bristol University are all involved in the Durham Tipping Points project and they are joined by Dr Shahidha Bari from Queen Mary, London to discuss the idea of the tipping point and what it might tell us about ourselves and our environment – and how, perhaps, we can use our understanding of it to prevent significant problems in areas as diverse as banking and sociology.

The fact that different subject areas were interacting together seems quite fascinating to me, especially as it’s often said that innovation arises at the border of disciplines (see also here).

The programme started with the academic motivation for the project and some interesting questions that were discussed included:

  • Is the idea of a tipping point universal, leading to previously unrecognised connections, or specific to each particular discipline?
  • Are tipping points irreversible?
  • What can we learn from human and non-human tipping points? For example, the contrast of the mechanistic viewpoint with the human notions of spontaneity and serendipity.

It’ll be interesting to see what the outcomes of the Durham Tipping Points Project are and how the results may help in encouraging opportunities as well as preventing problems.

The 30 minute programme is currently still available via iPlayer.

Picture credit: here.