The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World's Toughest Problems



Book Summary

Think of the toughest problems in your organization or community. What if hey’d already been solved, and you didn’t even know it? 

In this inspiring and paradigm-shifting book, Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin turn conventional ideas about problem-solving upside down and reveal a counterintuitive new approach. Their advice? Harness the power of “positive deviants”—the few individuals in a group who find unique ways to look at, and overcome, seemingly insoluble problems. Positive deviants see solutions where others don’t. And they’re the key to spreading and sustaining needed change.
With vivid, first-hand stories of how positive deviance has alleviated some of the world’s toughest problems (including malnutrition in Vietnam and staph infections in hospitals), the authors illuminate this approach’s core principles and practices, including:
  • Initiating an open, curious inquiry into the nature of the problem
  • Using innovative behaviors to shape new thinking, rather than vice versa
  • Confounding the organizational “immune response” seeking to sustain the status quo
The Power of Positive Deviance unveils a powerful new way to tackle the thorniest challenges in your own company and community.

About the Authors

Richard Pascale is an associate fellow at Said Business School, and author or co-author of numerous books, including Managing on the Edge. 
Jerry Sternin was the world’s leading expert in the application of Positive Deviance as a tool for addressing social and behavioral change.
Monique Sternin has been an equal partner in these efforts and now heads the Positive Deviance Institute at Tufts University.










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PD Quotes from the Field

“PD is like a flashlight. It helps to shine light and illuminate what hides behind the darkness. It helps us discover what already exists. For example, it helps us discover our existing strengths we had not realized or utilized.”

~a kader, Kedoyo, Indonesia


“The PD approach is like digging with a hoe. One needs to turn the soil over to see what lies hidden and buried beneath. Then the land is ready to plant new crops.”

~Raymond, community leader in Pader District, Indonesia