ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Looking to Outliers For Innovative Brilliance

Posted by Plish on August 17, 2012

(Before reading please watch the above short video)

I can’t help but smile every time I watch this video.  The innocence of Butters (the character that sits ‘backwards’ on toilets,) is key.  He does something that seems totally normal and makes perfect sense.  With a little creativity he goes above and beyond what is commonly practiced.

If you’re going to read while on the toilet, you need a shelf to hold your reading material, right?

If you want to have a drink, you need a shelf, so why not the same one used for your books?

And best of all?

Flushing is easy; The handle is conveniently located on the left. No getting up, twisting, or turning!

Everybody looks at Butters as if he’s nuts.  Everybody looks at him as if their awkward, minimally functional method of using the toilet is the right way!  But, nevertheless, there’s a wisdom in Butters’ approach – a simple, elegant, wisdom.

Looking to Butters for ideas for improving the toilet experience would be an example of positive deviance.  What is positive deviance?

“Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups (the positive deviants), whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers. These individuals or groups have access to exactly the same resources and face the same challenges and obstacles as their peers. ” (From Positive Deviance website)

In other words, often times solutions to problems come from the fringes.  Solutions come from the people who see what everybody else sees and yet they behave differently.  These people find ways of making the most out of what others see as mundane.

Think about the product opportunities that would exist if we redesigned the toilet experience with Butters’ insights!

How would the toilet look? Where would the toilet paper go?  What would be the best way to deal with the pants around the ankles?

It’s questions like these that can get the ideation ball rolling even if the majority of people won’t use the toilet ‘in reverse.’

Questions based upon the behaviors of positive deviants can be great provocations in designing unique solutions.

But, there is one slight hitch to gaining the insights of these folks:

The Butters of the world usually aren’t in a room boldly offering up their visions of the way things could be…

They’re on the fringes…

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