Positive Deviance – A Perspective on Innovation

Recently I was theorizing for an anti-smoking campaign to change attitudes, increase intention, perceived risk, perceived benefit, behavior, etc. I wish I had thought about ‘positive deviance’ when thinking of ways to inform influencers and mobilize people to say no to smoking.

According to what I read in a recent announcement from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, positive deviance suggests that ‘in every organization or community, there are people who solve problems better than peers who have exactly the same resources.’ The RWJF article quotes from a CDC announcement that explains how positive deviance was instrumental in reducing the number of infections in hospitals, as certain individuals figured out highly efficient ways to discard infected gloves and clothing.

This is the crux of innovation – when someone figures out a better way of doing things and paves the way for others. It could also be a new dimension in influencer research. When looking for those who are more outspoken and convincing than others, we could also study their approaches to problem solving.