Positive Deviance is a concept that was coined by researcher Richard Pascale. It suggests that within any field, there will be pockets of excellence, whereby things are done exceptionally well. The key, therefore, is to locate those deviants, and find out what it is about them that enables them to succeed in the same circumstances wherein others are not.
It’s an attractive theory in that it reinforces the sense that innovation doesn’t have to be truly unique. It could simply be adopting what’s working for others, whether in your own field or in another.
There are various projects that are designed to highlight these deviants and bring them to wider attention (not least my own with this blog).
The Health Acceleration Challenge for instance is a Harvard project that looks to find innovations in healthcare, and speed up the dissemination of those innovations as far as possible.
The project emerged from a survey of healthcare industry leaders conducted by researchers at Harvard. They found that the biggest problem was in the dissemination of ideas throughout the industry.
“One thing we’ve learned is that in almost all aspects of health care delivery, there are places that are doing it very well. If we were all doing all these things, we could reduce the cost of health care by 30 percent,” the researchers state.
This finding resulted in the creation of the Health Acceleration Challenge, which aims to both identify innovations in healthcare, and help promote those innovations more widely.
To qualify for inclusion in the challenge, an innovation must be in deployment in at least one setting, with credible evidence that it’s valuable in that environment.
“I really want to emphasize that we want ideas from everywhere,”they say.“You don’t have to be an academic medical center. You don’t have to be from Boston, Los Angeles, or Houston. You don’t need to be affiliated with Harvard. A winning idea could be from anywhere.”
A learning network for change makers
Another project aiming to disseminate innovative approaches is the Dutch website Sa.am. They’re branding themselves as a ‘learning network for change makers’, and aim to offer up a series of lectures/presentations about innovation in the workplace.
The site features a series of interactive talks, with the advice from each session packaged up to allow the insights from the session to be easily accessed.
“The featured leaders and experts present their expertise or experience in 20 minutes, the other 40 minutes are for conversation. Our members are busy, don’t have time for long lectures, however they do want to free up some time to get advice on a burning question from senior leaders from companies like Nike, Unilever, Nestle, AMD or Pepsico,” founder Hans Balmaekers tells me.
The hope is that it provides a fresh way of learning, with the site setup as a direct contrast to the traditional chalk and talk method offered by most MOOCs.
Instead, learning will be personalized and bite-sized, with collaboration offered at the same time as the talks themselves. The aim is that it will create a community of people coalescing around a particular topic, with those who have been there and got the t-shirt helping those starting out on their journey.
The project is in a very early stage at the moment, so it will certainly develop over the coming months, but it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.