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Archive for April 28th, 2011

Four Rules for Building a Positive Deviance Repository – A Model Based on Woman’s World Magazine

Posted by Plish on April 28, 2011

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)

“Woman’s World is written for the traditional, family-oriented working woman. Woman’s World delivers a feel-good mix of heart-warming human interest stories and practical everyday solutions for work and home in every issue – America’s premiere weekly service book.” (italics mine) – Woman’s World Mission Statement

While recently thumbing through an issue of Woman’s World magazine, it dawned on me that Woman’s World  is a repository of positive deviance (And consequently is a database of possible business opportunities!).  In fact, Woman’s World’s Mission Statement emphasizes that their goal is to provide practical everyday solutions for work and home.  This also includes solutions for health and beauty. They make it a point to amass and share tidbits of information – helpful information that others may not have thought of or had access to.

These insights come from women who have the same resources and face the same challenges and obstacles as the readers of  Woman’s World.  In fact, many times it is  readers that contribute!

For a buck seventy-nine you get, as the magazine claims on every cover, “A Great Week Made Easy!”.  You also get solutions to problems (that you often didn’t realize you had until you saw them printed),  and you feel better about yourself because you’re making an effort to change (i.e. design) your life, and the lives of those around you, for the better.

How does Woman’s World do this and what can you do to  build a system for sharing positive deviances?

Follow each of these four rules and you’ll be on your way. 

  1. You need a repository or framework where ideas can be exchanged.  It doesn’t have to be high-tech.  Woman’s World is a magazine – it’s old school, not web 2.0! In fact, its paperness is a major strength (See number 2 below)
  2. People need to have easy access to the repository. Woman’s World is usually placed in the check out aisles.  People get it while they’re waiting to do something else!  It also means that it should be easy (and even fun!) to read, easy to navigate.  Information shouldn’t be presented as long drawn out treatises, but as short and sweet pericopes.
  3. People need to see themselves as belonging to a community in which they can share their problems and solutions without judgement.  The members of this community share a common goal:  the growth and/or improvement of individuals, families and communities. 
  4. The repository needs to address what is important to community members. This goes beyond obvious systemic needs (how to do x,y,z more effectively) and includes things like spirituality, health/wellness, etc . 

In addition to these four rules,  there are two guidelines that must be followed:

  • Once you start getting a Positive Deviance Repository in place, don’t forget to experiment and improve on your system.

Violating either of these guidelines will result in stagnation of your system, or worse, alienation of  the system’s users.  Positive Deviances are proposed and adopted from the ground up.  If they’re imposed from the top down, they will often lose their efficacy.  You want people to be active and engaged in reading and contributing to the Positive Deviance Repository.

After all, who wouldn’t want  their customers/members to contribute to the growth of the company and/or society, and for them to feel better at the same time?

Posted in Best Practices, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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