Motivating real and lasting change (ask your positive deviants for help)


By William Seidman

We often hear about the importance of positive images in achieving real and lasting change.

I was at an all-male college, Dartmouth, when women began to be admitted. As you can imagine, our culture changed rapidly. We were very motivated to do anything that would make it easier to get along with the women!

Positive images are a great driving force for cultural change, but not just any images, not from just any source. and not as “incentives.” In our 15 years of work changing organizational cultures, we’ve found that images associated with creating a greater social good (similar to Dan Pink’s “purpose” concept), are the most powerful for causing an organization to rethink itself into a new and better culture. The best source of these images is, somewhat surprisingly, not usually the organization’s executives, but their “positive deviants” – the few people in the organization who are consistently the top performers. Positive deviants are motivated by a profound sense of purpose that can be articulated in a way that is compelling enough to drive rapid cultural change. We’ve had considerable success at changing cultures focusing on these two things – purpose and positive deviants.

 

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