Positive Deviance and the sense of purpose


By William Seidman

Purpose is so important. I’ve been preaching it for years. Without it you have, essentially, nothing. And yes, money isn’t everything. Not at all!

There’s some great research being done on motivation  (and a large and growing body of neuroscience research on the impact of purpose on brain chemistry). But how do you engrain “purpose” in each member of an organization? Wikipedians usually never meet one another.  And Wikipedia has contributors who do it for less than noble reasons, and thousands of contributors (“editors”) whose volunteer work is far less than excellent. The result (an online, worldwide encyclopedia) might be terrific but the organization (thousands of individual “editors” scattered around the globe) isn’t one we can necessarily extrapolate much from for other organizations.

I work with “positive deviants” who are the consistent top performers in a job function. Positive deviants are profoundly motivated by purpose, but in a way that is very integrated with the core of the organization. If guided properly they can articulate an organization’s purpose far better than the usual executive bromides. Furthermore, when the positive deviant purpose is articulated in a particular way and presented to others following our current understanding of the neuroscience of learning, their purpose statement creates a neural response that directly drives intense motivation. Finally, the positive deviants can also lay out a path to mastery that can be used to guide everyone not just to become intensely motivated but also to be operationally excellent, quickly and efficiently converting that motivation into tangible innovations and productivity improvements. We have done this process in hundreds of companies with thousands of people and it works every time.

 

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