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Positive Deviance: Overview

May 15, 2008
    I’m becoming more convinced that positive deviance is a reliable model for change in many and varied situations. It isn’t hard to see how it could be utilized in areas like urban renewal or even spiritual formation.  It might worth considering how this could be used in your context. i have some ideas for mine that I hope to share in future posts as I give it a go via some short cycle time experiments in my context. 
    Below is a summary of the process. As i read them again i was struck by 2 things. First, it begins with listening. That is always a reliable starting point. That is where St. Benedict started his famous Rule for his students/monks. The Apostle James reminds us to “be quick to listen.” Proverbs is loaded with admonitions to listen well. listening is a good starting if you need one for almost any situation. 
    The second thing was the focus on behaviors. It is easy and sometimes fun to the point of intoxication to caught up in a good theoretical discussion. Often however they end up going nowhere and lead to deep frustration and sometimes angst. The emotional equivalent of “blue balls” if you’ll pardon the crude analogy. PD however focuses on outcomes and small, doable, repeatable, simple behaviors. Practices that can actually be practiced and tested. There are some obvious connections here to spiritual disciplines and formation that need to be explored. I will be a guinea pig. KR = lab rat of PD.
    There are basically 8 steps to the process of positive deviance. These are just a summary and I’ll explore each one one in future posts.
    Step 1: Don’t Presume You Have the Answer: Approach the change issue with a beginner’s mind, ready to listen.

    Step 2: Don’t Think of It as a Dinner Party: Involve only those that are a part of effecting the change, instead of a broad, diverse audience.

    Step 3: Let Them Do It Themselves: Set up a situation in which people can discover, on their own, a better way to do things. Raise questions but the let the group come up with its own answers.

    Step 4: Identify Conventional Wisdom: Establish the norms and associated boundaries.

    Step 5: Identify and Analyze the Deviants: Allow the positive deviants to emerge as it becomes clear that they have found a better way.

    Step 6: Let the Deviants Adopt Deviations On Their Own: Don’t teach new knowledge – encourage new behavior.

    Step 7: Track Results and Publicize Them: Post the results, show how they are achieved and let other groups develop their own curiosity about them.

    Step 8: Repeat Steps One Through Seven: Make the whole change process cyclical.

+++ May your day be filled with positive deviance and may you and I become the positive deviants the world needs. Be the change! +++
7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2008 11:48 am

    quote from the guiness commercials:


  2. January 5, 2009 4:51 pm

    Great post, I concur and look forward to more inspiration.

    Let’s be the change!

  3. September 10, 2009 1:06 pm

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  4. August 24, 2010 6:17 pm

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  1. Praxis Podcast » Blog Archive » Episode #20 Kevin talks about Positive Deviance Part 2

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