I’ve written many times about the challenges innovators face inside organizations. Research has shown them to be rather unpopular with their peers, especially those who cherish the comfort of how things currently are.
It can be a rather frustrating, and indeed lonely, place to be. It’s certainly hard to see it as a positive, but I’m going to argue for just that in this post.
You might be frustrated by the laggards you see about you in your organization that are doing things in an old fashioned and out of date way. You’ll no doubt look further afield and see inspirational people and organizations going about their work in the right way. The kind of way you wish could be replicated within your own organization.
The thing is, the familiarity of our own environment can often blind us to what’s really going on. This familiarity can cause us to overlook the shoots of innovation that might be springing up around us.
Science fiction author William Gibson famously opined that the future already exists, but that it is unevenly distributed. This notion that in any field there are pockets of excellence is something that was largely popularized by the work around positive deviance conducted by Richard Pascale.
It’s quite probable that the innovators within your own organization won’t have come up with complete solutions. They’ll provide you with fragments of the future. They might be fragments that look insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the very behaviors required to underpin these fragments will be crucial.
Seeking deviants internally
There have been numerous attempts to try and promote serendipity in the workplace, with projects such as Spark Collaboration and Collaborizm trying to connect people up within organizations that may otherwise remain hidden to one another.
There are also various projects to try and connect up disparate ideas. We’ve seen idea markets emerge at companies such as Rite Solutions and IBM where ideas are floated on a kind of internal stock exchange, with colleagues invited to back and support ideas they believe are worthwhile.
These are just a couple of examples of how you can go about finding the positive deviants in your own organization. Do this and you might surprise yourself at just how innovative your stodgy organization really is.