Positive deviance

Just finished Better by Atul Gawande. It was a fun read full of some really interesting anecdotes. One of the things Gawande talks about is this idea of positive deviance which basically recognizes that there are uncommon cases of success that can be attributed to certain behaviors. If we want to improve ourselves or our community we should look for those positive deviants and find out what makes them successful. And I use the term “successful” to mean really and type of positive outcome.

If we want to become positive deviants ourselves, we need to do something that no one else is doing, to try a different way of doing things. This reminds me of a quote attributed to Alexander Graham Bell (I did a project on him back in high school), “An inventor looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world; he is haunted by an idea.”

Growing up I always wanted to be an inventor, then I realized how impractical that was. Though I don’t think any of the great inventors grew up wanting to be inventors, they simply had the mindset that A.G.B. described above. And I believe that’s the case for many contemporary positive deviants; they aren’t satisfied with the status quo, they see an opportunity for change and they make that change. Anyone can be an inventor, anyone can be a positive deviant; what separates the idea from reality is often times effort and tenacity.

TIATF: My job, metabolism, technology


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