I’m a Positive Deviant

The other day, Christine Livingstone reminded me of the idea of being a positive deviant. It’s a concept which thrust it’s way into my brain, jumped around a bit and slapped me silly. Read more about it through the Positive Deviant Initiative, and in particular here.

For the lazy amongst you, here’s a definition provided by them:

Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.

There’s a nice explanation of what it means to use this approach:

The Positive Deviance approach is an asset-based, problem-solving, and community-driven approach that enables the community to discover these successful behaviors and strategies and develop a plan of action to promote their adoption by all concerned.

And they go on to explain on when to use the PD approach:

1) Problem requires behavioral or/and social change (adaptive challenges versus technical challenges)

2) Seemingly “intractable” problem – compelling enough to require a new approach

3) Presence of Positive Deviants (individuals/groups exhibiting desired outcome)

4) Leadership commitment to address issue

And to complete the piece, here’s what is different about PD as a Behaviour and Social Change Strategy:

Who discovers what already works
– The social proof that someone with limited resources can overcome intractable problem
– The dynamics of the PD process based on complex adaptive systems
– Leveraging community wisdom: capturing and amplifying change as it occurs via feedback loops, thus fueling more change
– Emphasis on Practice versus Knowledge

A nice example of where this works is provided in a case study on this YouTube video.

There’s a lot of good useful stuff here. Most of all, it just bloody chimes with me. The other day I was talking about helping people find their signature strengths. A signature strength is something which, once you identify it, becomes your defining feature. That is, it is something which creates such a sense of purpose in you that you use that strength in the work you do, the way you live and the way you are. More about this another time, but I’ve found my signature strength.

I’m a Positive Deviant.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology. Book now to attend and learn more.