Teaching corporations to listen to their positive deviants

By William Seidman We’ve been working with three organizations that developed great best practices from their positive deviants. Two of the programs succeeded and one failed spectacularly.   When positive deviants build best practices there is a richness of language and concept that is visible and powerful. Programs get into trouble when a corporate person responsible for developing and maintaining the “official” story overrides  the positive deviants. These people force changes to the language and concepts that represent a corporate perspective of how the job “should” work and it sounds and feels stiff and corporate. During pilot testing, it was astounding how completely the reaction of the users reflects each type of story. Comments about the imposed official story are universally about the learning tasks not making sense or being difficult to work with. In contrast, comments about the real story are universally praised as being sensible, realistic and valuable. In one of the organizations, the corporate person rejected the idea that she could be out of touch with reality and actually imposed more of her language. This program failed. In the other two, the corporate people, after some resistance, came to understand that they were causing the problem and backed off. These programs were incredibly successful.  ]]>

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