July 10 2023
By: Shawn M. Galloway
We are hardwired to manage by exception, looking for the undesirable or negative to extinguish. What if we turn that same energy into finding the positive exception? With the same resources or despite common constraints, some people rise above the crowd. Where are they, and why are they able to succeed?
In the 1970s, researchers observed families with well-nourished children in communities of poverty. These individuals became known as Positive Deviants due to their unique problem-solving behaviors, unlike the rest of the group handling the same challenges. Seeking them out (a Positive Deviance Inquiry) to learn from them to provide social proof of the possibility of overcoming problems later became an approach to social change.
Dan and Chip Heath propose seeking out, studying, and cloning Bright Spots, which are early signs of something or someone responding positively or working well during a change, where others might have problems or not produce results.
I have clients that have discontinued using the term Best Practices and replaced with the term Better Practices. Their fear is that if we adopt a 'best' practice, we might stop looking for a better way, and there will always be a better way if we keep looking for it. These clients conduct better practice assessments, intentionally searching for a better but perhaps uncommon way to learn from. Where is the Positive, Bright, and Better within your organization? Spend time there and see what you can learn.
"It's easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting." — Pascale, Sternin, and Sternin
"Without deviance from normality, there can be no progress." — Frank Zappa
"We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them." — Albert Einstein
Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.