Leveraging the right “kind” of positive deviance?

Awareness of the term “positive deviance” is rising, as a way of solving tough problems by finding what already works.  It’s been the topic of seminars for health leaders.  It’s been frequently mentioned by Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, NHS England, as part of a repertoire of approaches to front-line change, and by Jo Bibby in her Health Foundation Blog.  It is the subject of a slide show by Bob Sutton, and gets a brief mention as a possible new option in a recent article about the limitations of quality improvement projects in the NHS by Prof Mary Dixon Woods and Graham P Martin.

There is, however, no available comparison of the various interpretations and applications of “positive deviance,” and some authors mix up the various conceptual frameworks.  This article aims to put this right, and offer tips to leaders for implementation. Continue reading

A checklist for engaging people

Many change models, Hidden Insights included, stress the need for engaging people in change early on.  To do this, we need their active co-operation, and involvement, often in focus groups, large-scale events such as Open Space or World Cafe or just in conversations.  But you’ve got to get them to turn up in a positive frame of mind, ideally ready to volunteer to get involved….

Here’s a checklist, based on experience of implementing successful employee and community projects.  Its parent comes from the successful MRSA reduction project in the USA, recorded in the book, Inviting Everyone, Healing Healthcare Through Positive Deviance, by Arvind Singhal, Prucia Bruscell and Curt Lindberg.  We’ve added some learning of our own.

Great Invitations offer genuine and authentic hospitality

A good invitation will let you know that you will be treated with generous consideration, and ideally food.  Your needs will be attended to and your contribution will be valued.

Great invitations are personal

We like to be asked personally to come to an event by someone we admire, trust and respect.  We are more likely to come if it looks as if it will be enjoyable and significant, designed with me in mind, ideally by “someone like me”.

The invitation itself is attractive and easy to find

A tempting invitation is visually interesting and appeals to my interests.  It’s clear about why I should come.  I get it in a way that’s easy for me – for example an older person might get a personal letter, and a young one might tweet it and retweet it.

It’s an invitation that’s easy to say yes to

The event is more likely to attract people if it’s shorter, somewhere easily accessible and familiar, safe and convenient.  We come to you.

Appealing invitations are specific and hold no surprises

It’s clear why I’m invited, what I can expect, where the event will be, how long it is, what’s involved and what I can contribute to it.

I can see a benefit for me in coming

There’s a promise of something familiar and something new and interesting.  A balance of both is important, with a sense that this should be positive and enjoyable, looking forward to the future.

Positive peer pressure and positive deviance

Peer pressure is really powerful.  The trouble is, it can be used for good or bad.  We aim to create positive peer pressure to achieve change, but it’s not always easy. Continue reading

Positive deviants and heroes – two versions of the same thing?

Everyday heroes in a hostile world

There has been a lively twitter conversation about a fascinating interview with Philip Zimbardo, Stanford professor emeritus and author of “the Lucifer Effect“.  He explains that society may condition good people to do bad things, such as join gangs and participate in violence.  This has been demonstrated in his “prison” experiment, and in the famous “electric shock” experiments of Stanley Milgram.  If you put good people in a bad environment, they will do bad things.  Philip helps people learn to be ordinary heroes.

Heroes as positive deviants?

Continue reading

New perspectives – psycho-social evidence for benefits of positive deviance

Jane Lewis and Dr Joanna Wilde ran a very successful workshop for the British Psychological Society in June.  This introduced positive deviance (PD) to a wider audience of accredited occupational and organisational psychologists.

We highlighted the benefits of working in this way at a time when workplaces can feel increasingly pressured and toxic.  True to the principles of positive deviance, it was an interactive session where participants worked on their own cases, mainly linked to staff (and volunteer) engagement, leadership and culture change.  Jane acted as the “expert non-expert” and Joanna commented on the links between our experience and current thinking and theory.  Her review helps to explain why positive deviance does work, and why it is particularly appropriate in the current climate. Continue reading

Sustainable results from hidden solutions

Not business as usual

I read Jane Bozarth’s excellent article on positive deviance (PD) in Learning Solutions Magazine with interest.  She succinctly highlights how PD uncovers hidden solutions and delivers sustainable results.  She points up the differences between PD and business as usual.  She sets out the usual scenario for solving problems:

“Organization has a problem.  Organization brings in “experts” to study the problem, devise a solution, run a pilot (which may mean a training program) and then leave.  Organisation members quickly revert back to old behaviors”.

Jane highlights the possibilities opened up by looking for what works.  A specific tool is the all-important “flip” or “somersault” question:

  • Not “why are staph infections so high across the hospital?” but “why are staph infections lower on the third floor?”
  • Not “why are sales down in regions 6 and 9, but “why are sales up in region 4?”

This helpful introduction highlights how simple the PD concept is, and how there are almost always hidden solutions.   On the face of it, it’s hard to understand why amplifying positive deviance, as practised by the Sternins, isn’t as common as many other improvement initiatives.  It’s about doing more with less, empowering and engaging people.  It spreads behaviours and practices that are already proven to be working, so the only resource needed is the time to find them.  It’s evidence based, teaches a lot about leadership and is fun to do.  What’s not to like? Continue reading

Human management, Hidden Insights and the British Psychological Society

We’re delighted to be sharing a platform with Dr Joanna Wilde on 3rd June at the British Psychological Society’s training centre in London.  We are running a CPD-accredited workshop for practitioners, to demonstrate a practical, evidence-based approach to human management and leadership. Continue reading

Engagement and culture change in Cambridgeshire

We are delighted with the feedback from the learning-by-doing we did over the last year in Cambridgeshire.  People have taken the Hidden Insights concepts of “don’t decide about me, without me” and “acting their way into a new way of thinking” to heart.  They have grown in confidence and created amazing engagement and community action.

You can read more about the Grub Hub in Huntingdon here. Continue reading

More with less? Serious fun at Accent Group

  • “A really good day”
  • “Bang on the brief”
  • “A great chance to mix and have my say”

We were delighted to be asked by Accent Group, the housing association, to facilitate their Eastern Region staff awayday.  We are already working with them, as part of a group of organisations in Cambridgeshire, which is using Hidden Insights as a means of improvinDSCN2299g relationships with, and building resilience in tenants.  This project has also been a great way of starting collaborative projects across organisations – Accent and Fenland District Council are sharing resources in Wisbech.  Using Hidden Insights thinking has attracted more than four times the usual attendance at resident events, again conducted in collaboration with the Ferry Project, Cambridgeshire County Council and Making Money Count. Continue reading

Ownership not buy-in – Hidden Insight of the season

People will take personal responsibility for solving a problem,  completing an action and performing better if they own the solution – a key Hidden Insights principle is “ownership not buy-in”.

Hidden Insights® achieves this through its group coaching approach.  Coaching works with anyone, in organisations, families, or communities.  Coaching is reported by the 2015 CIPD employer survey to be the second most effective learning after learning on the job (which is also a part of Hidden Insights). Continue reading