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What KM
practitioners can
learn from
Positive Deviance
Credit: Flickr Sondra Stewart
ActKM, Canberra
October 2010
David Gurteen
The Vietnam Story
Credit: Flickr Sondra Stewart
The Vietnam Story
 PD was first applied by Jerry and Monique Sternin through their work with
Save the Children in Vietnam in the 1990s.
 At the start of the pilot 64% of children in the pilot villages were
malnourished.
 Through a PD inquiry, the villagers found poor parents in the community
that had well-nourished children.
 They went on to discover that these families were feeding their children
foods that other villagers considered inappropriate; they washed their
children’s hands before meals, and fed them three to four times a day
instead of the typical two meals a day.
 It was these simple “deviant behaviours” that made all the difference but
instead of simply telling parents what to do differently (or creating a best
practice document!), they helped the villagers design a program to act
their way into a new way of thinking.
 To attend a feeding session, parents were required to bring one of the new
foods. They brought their children and while sharing meals, learned to
cook the new foods.
 At the end of the two year pilot, malnutrition fell by 85%.
The Power of Positive Deviance
Stories
 Childhood malnutrition in Vietnam
 Female circumcision in Egypt
 Girl soldiers in Uganda
 Infant mortality in Pakistan
 Hospital Infections
 Pharmaceutical sales at Merck
 Goldman Sachs
The PD Process
The PD approach is best suited to problems that require behaviour and social
change.
Five basic steps carried out by members of the community:
1. Define the problem and desired outcome.
2. Determine the common practices.
3. Discover the uncommon but successful behaviours and strategies
through observation and inquiry.
4. Design an action learning initiative based on the inquiry findings and
execute the project.
5. Monitor and evaluate the project. Share improvements as they occur.
Discern the effectiveness of the project.
What we can learn!
Principles
 Avoid grandiose aims.
 Start with the problem.
 Participants are not coerced.
 The community discovers the solution for itself.
 If solution repeated - start again.
 The facilitators only teach and support the process.
 Key success factor is OWNERSHIP of the problem and the solution.
 Best practice is avoided.
 All stakeholders are encouraged to be involved.
Avoid grandiose aims
 Avoid grandiose aims.
 The approach is evolutionary.
Knowledge Management should be focused on
real, tangible intractable problems not
aspirational goals.
It should deal pragmatically with the
evolutionary possibilities of the present rather
then seeking idealistic solutions.
Dave Snowden
Start with the problem
 Start with the problem.
 The community defines and/or
frames the problem.
Credit: Flickr tph567
Involve everyone
 Communities have the people and the
ability to self-organize to respond
effectively to a common problem.
 Know-how is not concentrated in the
leadership of a community or in external
experts but is distributed throughout the
community.
 All stakeholders are encouraged to be
involved.
Don’t do things to people
 Participants are not coerced.
 They can opt in or opt out.
Credit: Flickr tph567
Allow people to take responsibility
 Communities already have the solutions to
the problems they face and they are the
best people to solve them.
 Allow the community to discover the
solution for itself.
 Never give them the solution.
 And never teach the solution
Don’t take short cuts
 If the solution is repeated in
another community then start
again.
Credit: Flickr haechoo
Seek sustainable solutions
 The PD approach enables the
community to seek and discover
sustainable responses to a given
problem.
 Because the demonstrably successful
but not widely adopted behaviours
are already practiced in the
community.
Only facilitate
 The facilitators only teach and
support the process.
 They are not experts in the problem
or the solution.
 On no account do they contribute
directly to defining the problem or
the solution.
Let the community own the problem
 Key success factor is OWNERSHIP
of the problem and the solution.
Credit: Flickr eurodrifter
Avoid best practice
 Best practice should be avoided.
 It can trigger the NIH syndrome.
Credit: Flickr oxfam-italia
Quotations from the book
There is no silver bullet
Discoveries from one community cannot be
repackaged and provided to another as a
silver bullet.
That's a "best practice" rollout and it
invariably evokes the immune rejection
response.
The objective is engagement
The real objective isn't just "knowledge" or
getting an 80--20 understanding of the
situation.
The overriding objective is engagement,
creating a buzz, mobilizing people to take
action.
Learning is shaped by social context
Explicit knowledge, conventionally delivered
like pizza (neat boxes with toppings of
concepts, theories, best practices and war
stories), is consumed by the brain but not
metabolized into action.
The learning we call intuition, know-how
and common sense gets into the blood
stream through osmosis. It is shaped by
social context.
We are walking on a trampoline
Unintended consequences get to the heart of why
you never really understand an adaptive problem
until you have solved it.
Problems morph and "solutions" often point to
deeper problems.
In social life, as in nature, we are walking on a
trampoline.
Every inroad reconfigures the environment we tread
on.
Don’t suppress variation
Corporations, in the name of efficiency, suppress
variation by "getting all the ducks in line."
To optimize productivity, they evolve highly refined
and internally consistent operating systems.
Payoff - results - as long as the music lasts.
But ... all that streamlining and re-engineering limits
diversity, suppresses self-organization ... and
curtails a bottom up emergent response to
disruptive change.
Information has a social life
 Contrary to widespread faith in
"communication" and "knowledge transfer,"
information has a social life,
 and unless new insights are embedded in
the social system they evaporate.
It is practice that advances knowledge
Knowledge does not advance practice. Rather
practice advances knowledge.
It is easier to change behaviour by practicing it rather
than being taught about it.
“It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking
than think your way into a new way of acting”
The Vietnam Story
David GURTEEN
Gurteen Knowledge
Fleet, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 7774 178 650
Email: david.gurteen@gurteen.com
www.gurteen.com
Licence
 You may use these slides under the
following Creative Commons Licence
 Attribution-Share Alike 2.0
 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/uk/

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What KM practioners can learn from Positive Deviance

  • 1. What KM practitioners can learn from Positive Deviance Credit: Flickr Sondra Stewart ActKM, Canberra October 2010 David Gurteen
  • 2. The Vietnam Story Credit: Flickr Sondra Stewart
  • 3. The Vietnam Story  PD was first applied by Jerry and Monique Sternin through their work with Save the Children in Vietnam in the 1990s.  At the start of the pilot 64% of children in the pilot villages were malnourished.  Through a PD inquiry, the villagers found poor parents in the community that had well-nourished children.  They went on to discover that these families were feeding their children foods that other villagers considered inappropriate; they washed their children’s hands before meals, and fed them three to four times a day instead of the typical two meals a day.  It was these simple “deviant behaviours” that made all the difference but instead of simply telling parents what to do differently (or creating a best practice document!), they helped the villagers design a program to act their way into a new way of thinking.  To attend a feeding session, parents were required to bring one of the new foods. They brought their children and while sharing meals, learned to cook the new foods.  At the end of the two year pilot, malnutrition fell by 85%.
  • 4. The Power of Positive Deviance
  • 5. Stories  Childhood malnutrition in Vietnam  Female circumcision in Egypt  Girl soldiers in Uganda  Infant mortality in Pakistan  Hospital Infections  Pharmaceutical sales at Merck  Goldman Sachs
  • 6. The PD Process The PD approach is best suited to problems that require behaviour and social change. Five basic steps carried out by members of the community: 1. Define the problem and desired outcome. 2. Determine the common practices. 3. Discover the uncommon but successful behaviours and strategies through observation and inquiry. 4. Design an action learning initiative based on the inquiry findings and execute the project. 5. Monitor and evaluate the project. Share improvements as they occur. Discern the effectiveness of the project.
  • 7. What we can learn!
  • 8. Principles  Avoid grandiose aims.  Start with the problem.  Participants are not coerced.  The community discovers the solution for itself.  If solution repeated - start again.  The facilitators only teach and support the process.  Key success factor is OWNERSHIP of the problem and the solution.  Best practice is avoided.  All stakeholders are encouraged to be involved.
  • 9. Avoid grandiose aims  Avoid grandiose aims.  The approach is evolutionary. Knowledge Management should be focused on real, tangible intractable problems not aspirational goals. It should deal pragmatically with the evolutionary possibilities of the present rather then seeking idealistic solutions. Dave Snowden
  • 10. Start with the problem  Start with the problem.  The community defines and/or frames the problem. Credit: Flickr tph567
  • 11. Involve everyone  Communities have the people and the ability to self-organize to respond effectively to a common problem.  Know-how is not concentrated in the leadership of a community or in external experts but is distributed throughout the community.  All stakeholders are encouraged to be involved.
  • 12. Don’t do things to people  Participants are not coerced.  They can opt in or opt out. Credit: Flickr tph567
  • 13. Allow people to take responsibility  Communities already have the solutions to the problems they face and they are the best people to solve them.  Allow the community to discover the solution for itself.  Never give them the solution.  And never teach the solution
  • 14. Don’t take short cuts  If the solution is repeated in another community then start again. Credit: Flickr haechoo
  • 15. Seek sustainable solutions  The PD approach enables the community to seek and discover sustainable responses to a given problem.  Because the demonstrably successful but not widely adopted behaviours are already practiced in the community.
  • 16. Only facilitate  The facilitators only teach and support the process.  They are not experts in the problem or the solution.  On no account do they contribute directly to defining the problem or the solution.
  • 17. Let the community own the problem  Key success factor is OWNERSHIP of the problem and the solution. Credit: Flickr eurodrifter
  • 18. Avoid best practice  Best practice should be avoided.  It can trigger the NIH syndrome. Credit: Flickr oxfam-italia
  • 20. There is no silver bullet Discoveries from one community cannot be repackaged and provided to another as a silver bullet. That's a "best practice" rollout and it invariably evokes the immune rejection response.
  • 21. The objective is engagement The real objective isn't just "knowledge" or getting an 80--20 understanding of the situation. The overriding objective is engagement, creating a buzz, mobilizing people to take action.
  • 22. Learning is shaped by social context Explicit knowledge, conventionally delivered like pizza (neat boxes with toppings of concepts, theories, best practices and war stories), is consumed by the brain but not metabolized into action. The learning we call intuition, know-how and common sense gets into the blood stream through osmosis. It is shaped by social context.
  • 23. We are walking on a trampoline Unintended consequences get to the heart of why you never really understand an adaptive problem until you have solved it. Problems morph and "solutions" often point to deeper problems. In social life, as in nature, we are walking on a trampoline. Every inroad reconfigures the environment we tread on.
  • 24. Don’t suppress variation Corporations, in the name of efficiency, suppress variation by "getting all the ducks in line." To optimize productivity, they evolve highly refined and internally consistent operating systems. Payoff - results - as long as the music lasts. But ... all that streamlining and re-engineering limits diversity, suppresses self-organization ... and curtails a bottom up emergent response to disruptive change.
  • 25. Information has a social life  Contrary to widespread faith in "communication" and "knowledge transfer," information has a social life,  and unless new insights are embedded in the social system they evaporate.
  • 26. It is practice that advances knowledge Knowledge does not advance practice. Rather practice advances knowledge. It is easier to change behaviour by practicing it rather than being taught about it. “It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting”
  • 28. David GURTEEN Gurteen Knowledge Fleet, United Kingdom Tel: +44 7774 178 650 Email: david.gurteen@gurteen.com www.gurteen.com
  • 29. Licence  You may use these slides under the following Creative Commons Licence  Attribution-Share Alike 2.0  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/uk/