Chapter 12 - Positive Deviance

NOVEMBER 4, 2011

Chapter 12 - Positive Deviance

Even in a business climate in which speed is all important, there is still a need to slow down and to use time to our advantage.  Speed is not an excuse for stupidity; it never has been. Racing full-out in the wrong direction won’t get us anywhere fast.

Can we take another look at business plans and objectives in terms of a longer time frame? A shorter one? Sometimes even the tiniest change in perspective helps to separate the real information from the noise.

Are you able to enact real change? What do successful projects, teams, and employees have in common?  Are there unique things that you can build a new successful outcome around? Is it something you can bring to others?

In social terms, this is called “positive deviance”: looking for the best and strongest to reinforce.  Keep in mind that people are far more likely to act their way into a new way of thinking, rather than the other way around.

Don’t preach, help people to change, but only within reason.  Select for talent and hire for attitude. And you do well to focus on strength and not on weakness. Individual strengths become foundations on which you can build while weaknesses can only be neutralized.

The entire concept of positive deviance flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Most attempts at change are doomed precisely because too much force (in the form “prescribed and approved solution”) is applied from the outside and not inside. But that’s the conventional way to do it – “we’ve always done it this way”.

There’s another term that social engineers sometime use to describe convention and the old “facts” that go with it -- “TBU”.  TBU is an abbreviation for the phrase “true, but useless”.

The concept of positive deviance shows us that lasting change usually comes from within.