“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.” - powerofpositivedeviance.com
Positive deviance. These are two words seemingly ill-suited to one another. Yet, it is precisely this paradox which expresses the power of the concept.
Positive, of course, describes attributes which are affirming and good. Deviance refers to a departure from commonly accepted modes of being or doing. Together, they deliver an audacious assertion: To stray from the norm is good.
Okay, perhaps this is not so revolutionary. After all, a positive deviant such as Steve Jobs rejected “normal” to the great benefit of many, as other wild thinkers and doers have done throughout history.
But in their respective beginnings the perception of their ideas was much different. Agents of the status quo, spurred by a shared social conditioning, could comfortably and collectively decry such people, and ideas, as crazy with a capital “C.”
Only after such Crazy people and their ideas proved revolutionary could they say, oh yes, they did the abnormal and it was good. This hindsight is the easy luxury of those who stand on the shoulders of giants. Positive deviance is the shrewd tool of those giants who have made such privileged hindsight possible.
Unseen positive deviance
Positive deviance is not always outwardly visible or being vocally championed. Consider the case of a few rural families in Vietnam who fed their children in a different manner than their village neighbors — and in so doing had healthy children compared to their malnourished peers.
The key here: they lived in the same context, with the same resources, but adopted a different behavior within those conditions. Once discovered, this deviant wisdom towards a better solution enabled a dramatic shift in the rest of the community — the spread of deviant behavior to the positive benefit of the whole.
With this blog space we will also strive to discover such deviants and deviance, to make the unseen, seen, through stories and interviews of those individuals and teams doing remarkable things for the communities around them.
A spotlight on positive deviance
Quántica, a training ground for social entrepreneurs, exists to be a vehicle for unleashing positive deviance. We are taking a common institution, education, and making it uncommon. And we are doing so with a clear intention to change the world for the better.
At Quántica we empower emerging positive deviants like yourself to discover your own capacities for positive deviance (it is also an actionable mindset we teach in our curriculum).
This blog is an extension of that mission, with the intention to inspire you through real stories of positive deviance by tapping into the deviant wisdom of social entrepreneurs operating within and across Latin America.
These are individuals and teams who aren’t household names like Steve Jobs. At least not yet. They are individuals who come from communities similar to the one in Vietnam, or similar to yours.
They may have had the same resources and opportunities as those around them, but they acted differently. They challenged the status quo. They dared to act to transform the outcomes of those conditions, and they devised exceptional ways to do so.
So we invite you to stay tuned. To read intently. To find inspiration in the courage of others. If anything, we hope these stories will spark your own call to courage and a path of positive deviance.