Tag Archives: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working

The Power of Positive Deviance – One of the Two Good Books for this Friday’s First Friday Book Synopsis

Bob Morris, my blogging colleague and general all around font of amazing knowledge and wisdom, reads books by the bushel full.  I read fewer – far fewer.

And, more times than not, in the last couple of years, I have chosen a book that Bob tells me “would be a good one for the First Friday Book Synopsis.”  This Friday I am presenting The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems by Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin — one of Bob’s suggestions.  An excellent suggestion!  Look at this hint about the book:

(A Leadership for the Common Good book.
Published in partnership with the Center for Public Leadership)
.  (Read Bob’s review of the book, on our blog, here).

It will take me a while to process all that the book says.  The book presents the principles, the “guts” of “Positive Deviance,” and then illustrates the concept with story after story of breakthrough findings that flesh out the concept.

By the way, Monique Sternin, one of the authors of the book, leads the Positive Deviance Initiative.  Read about it here.

Here are some key quotes from the book, setting up the concept:

As a problem solving process, this approach requires retraining ourselves to pay attention differently…

What matters far more (than the “what”) is the “how” – the very particular journey that each community must engage in to mobilize itself, overcome resignation and fatalism, discover its latent wisdom, and put this wisdom into practice.  This bears repeating:  the community must make the discovery itself.  It alone determines how change can be disseminated through the practice of new behavior – not through explanation or edict.

People are assumed to be rational, and their social system adaptable, and it is sufficient to “give them the answer and expect them to get on with it.”
The standard model is probably the best course of action for roughly 70 to 80 percent of change problems encountered.  But when empirical experience leads us to conclude, “we’ve tried everything and nothing works,” harnessing local understanding may be the only way to break the impasse.

Pay attention differently
Focus on the “how” – results matter!
Don’t assume that people are rational.  You can’t just say, “do this,” and expect people to do it.  “They” (any group that needs a breakthrough) have to discover the “it” from among themselves.

These are just some of the lessons of The Power of Positive Deviance.  More to come as I finish my reading of the book.

If you are in the DFW area, come join us this Friday morning.  My colleague, Karl Krayer, is presenting his synopsis of the new Tony Schwartz book, The Way We’re Working isn’t Working.  These are two really good books, and you really can learn the key content and transferable principles from these books at our event.  Register here.