Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Positive Deviants

Are you a positive deviant? Am I? Sounds like a personal and intrusive question doesn't it? Yet I couldn't help but reflect on this after I received an email from Harvard Business Review. They offered me an advanced copy of a new book coming out in June 2010 In THE POWER OF POSITIVE DEVIANCE (Harvard Business Press, June 2010), Richard Pascale, the late Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin. Apparently they present a counter intuitive new approach to problem solving. The concept is simple: look for outliers who succeed against all odds. By seeing solutions where others don't, these positive deviants spread and sustain needed change. Positive deviance (PD) is founded on the premise that at least one person in a community—working with the same resources as everyone else—has already licked the problem that confounds others. I've not received the book yet, but I'll review it as soon as I do and pass the information on to you.

Meanwhile I reflected on whether or not I was a positive deviant or did I know positive deviants. There are multi-levels of skills and capabilities here. It is not as simple as they make it out to be. But ask yourself if you are part of this group.

The initial premise is that these positive deviants succeed against all odds. This requires enormous perseverance or grit. That is a characteristic that has been proven to equate to success more than IQ or status. So, do you have grit?

Second is that these deviants see solutions where others don't. They see spaces in walls that stop others and find the tunnels through mountains that seem impassable. Can you see solutions? Or do you wait for others to find them?

Finally these deviants spread and sustain needed change. That requires more than just perseverance, but an ability to influence others to move along with the actions you are taking; to get early adopters to buy into the idea. Can you convince others to join you?

I have not read the book, but I'm interested to learn about these positive deviants. After personal reflection, I'm not sure I fit the description, but I know I've met and supported the deviants I've met. So for all you positive deviants out there and for those who support you, remember, we need you, perhaps now more than ever.