chapter  5
17 Pages

Reclaiming the future – part 2: positive deviance

The term "positive deviance' first appeared in nutrition research in the 1970s, based on the observation that, despite similar adverse circumstances, some people do well. Their success was based on using uncommon behaviours and unusual strategies. Studied largely within the context of health and social change, the idea of positive deviance has wider organisational relevance. The perverse culture is created from ongoing small behaviours which over time add up to a flight from reality, from good sense and from ethics that can become endemic – leading to large-scale fraud, negligence or corruption or a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare. To reframe leaders as 'positive deviants' provides a fresh perspective to the role of leadership today and to the concept of innovation. Where roles are unclear, and structures, goals and products change rapidly, personal values provide a foundation for integrity and positive deviance. Embedded in the idea of positive deviance is the concept of radical compassion.