Focus on the successful exceptions (i.e., positive deviants), not the failing norm.
—Pascale, Sternin, & Sternin, 2010
Positive deviants—those who are able to innovate and create affirmative results—do so within the same constraints that others face. These outliers reveal how the desired outcomes can be achieved by expanding beyond the boundaries of the status quo, while maintaining a focus on what is professionally, legally, and morally appropriate.
Consider the following example:
In 1990, Save the Children (SC), a nongovernmental organization in the United States, was asked by the government of Vietnam to create a program to enable poor villages to solve the overwhelming problem of childhood malnutrition. Given just six months to create a sustainable solution, those involved realized that they needed to look at the positive results that some had been able to achieve relative to the lack of success others had encountered under similar circumstances. They posed the question: “If some individuals in a community were better able to solve problems than others with access to exactly the same resources, could we use that provocative discrepancy?” Taking this tack, they were able to identify approaches that differed from the norm and apply this knowledge to produce positive results that led to a dramatic improvement in child health (Dura, Singhal, and Sternin, 2009).
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