(I summarised the results of the discussion mentioned below on the KM4Dev wiki: here).
Some members from KM4Dev are organizing a series of ‘focused conversations’ either about the community itself or about the field of ‘Knowledge management for development’. I volunteered for one of the latter. And I’d like to focus that conversation on the role of positive deviants in development organisations.
In any community, there are people whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite facing similar challenges and having no extra resources or knowledge than their peers. These individuals are referred to as positive deviants. Sternin, J., & Choo, R. (2000).
Fascinating! People that just manage to be smarter without following the same path as everyone else, and end up unearthing solutions that no one else saw?
Now the interesting thing for us/me is that positive deviants could very well be what would make a difference in getting a lot of knowledge work (i.e. conscious, structured but flexible approach to creating, sharing, applying, assessing knowledge through learning and action) accepted and practiced in development organisations.
Perhaps we need these positive deviants to get wider organisations to embrace learning, change, complexity, participation, empowerment, dialogue and a host of other things that we/I stand for in our organisations to make development and knowledge work more noble and effective.
So this raises a lot of questions about positive deviants vis-a-vis knowledge work in development organisations:
- Have you noticed such ‘positive deviants’ in your organisation or other organisations you are familiar with?
- What characterises them? How different might they be from the champions that are sometimes alluded to in knowledge work (or other) initiatives?
- What kind of benefits do they bring to their organisations?
- Are these benefits recognised / how accepted are these people in their organisation?
- How could they be mobilised to highlight alternative paths?
- Do they create a ‘knock-on effect’ to influence other members of their organisation to follow their path and if so how?
- If positive deviance seems useful in practice, how to stimulate and amplify it (if at all possible) in organisations?
So, I’m curious to see what will come out of that focused conversation…
Want to read more on positive deviance? I found this presentation…
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