By Michael McCauley In his new book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell looks at the other side of positive deviance. Gladwell asks, How do people become top performers? He attributes success to three factors: hard work, innate ability, and luck. We in the US may focus too much on innate abiity and not enough on either hard work or luck. How often do we admire a star athlete or a great lecturer and think that it must just come naturally to them? While ability plays an important role, it is hard work — Gladwell cites the “10,000 hours” one needs before expecting success — that enables positive deviants to exploit their abilities and achieve true success. The importance of luck is also interesting. Gladwell asserts that some people are just in the right place at the right time. Bill Gates attended Lakeside, a private high school, in Seattle whiich had an active computer club in 1968, earlier than most schools. We all know the rest of the story. I would posit, though, that many positive deviants create their own “luck,” By staying open to new ideas, networking with peers, and trying different things, they maximize the opportunities they have and thereby the “luck” to which they are exposed. The balancing of these components — ability, hard work, and luck –makes positive deviant wisdom so valuable. It’s also why organizations must consistently and systematically discover and fuly utilize the wisdom of their own people if they are to remain competitive.]]>

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