Organizations and positive deviance: change is essential

By Michael McCauley I’m still thinking about futurists Watts Wacker and Ryan Mathews’ notion, explored in their book The Deviant’s Advantage, that so many great new products and services start life as positive deviant ideas which must change in order to become mainstream. What does this mean for organizations? It means that to grow and thrive, organizations must constantly change in order to address the needs of their maturing markets and products. The new “deviant” idea can become tomorrow’s opportunity, but only if companies recognize and nurture that idea. At each stage in their progression, positive deviant ideas must be transformed in order to appeal to consumers at the next stage. This means that organizations must change

  • to address the needs of evolving products
  • to address the needs of evolving consumer groups, and
  • to usher in new ideas from the Fringe     
Change is essential to organizational health. The most successful positive deviant ideas changed enormously from their first conception. Wacker mentions some obvious and not-so-obvious ones: Companies need to embrace ongoing change that reinforces core organizational values. The companies that succeed rely on structured, systematic change. Most importantly, they have also embraced changes that enable them to systematically seek out new ideas (think Toyota and the Prius) and shepherd them toward social convention.]]>

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