Deviant, in a good way…
I know, I know. I told you I wasn’t going to publish the zine this week but I changed my mind. Surprise… now you can just take a ride on my spontaneity.
SO… I just learned about something called “positive deviance” and, well, it tickled me, so I came back to tell you about it.
This is what I learned…
In 2000, “positive deviants” (PD) were described in Fast Company as “individuals whose exceptional behaviors or practices enable them to get better results than their neighbors with the exact same resources.”
That didn’t precisely strike a nerve but this definition in a 2010 Independent article starts to get warmer:
“…look for outliers who succeed against all odds. Such individuals are outliers in the statistical sense – exceptions, people whose outcomes deviate in a positive way from the norm… such people do not know he or she is doing anything unusual.”
It was this definition in a 2017 Forbes article on “black sheep” that really caught my eye though; PD are described as “people who make positive changes in their lives and the world but are still ostracized by members of their family.”
Whoa, now they’re speaking my language. 🙂
While the term “black sheep” is generally seen as negative, I try to wear my “black sheep” status as a well-earned badge of honor. It’s gotten easier over the years to do so. The more I’ve let go of my past and the hurt it brought me, the easier it has been to see it as a gift. I became the “black sheep” through no choice of my own but what I did with the gift (of being my family’s scapegoat) has made me the “positive deviant” that I am today. [To be clear: It wasn’t always this way, it took me some time to truly embrace the “positive” over “negative.” And still, it’s a process. Deviance is easy, positive deviance is harder.]
Yet another description states, “A positive deviant is someone who departs from the norm in a way that adds value versus creates pain.”
This explains how I think of pranks. Some would disagree, but I believe a prank shouldn’t hurt anyone. I believe that pranks should instead invoke “surprise and delight.” It gives value not pain.
If I’m understanding it all correctly, this philosophy of PD is more than putting a positive spin on something, it’s carefully crafting a positive and rewarding outcome. It’s thinking many steps ahead and creating something wonderful. [Those of you who experienced the Jejune Institute — or any one of the many, many other awesome things in our greater community — know what I’m talking about.]
Ok, I have a favor. Can you send me names of any individual, group, art piece or project that you think might be PD? I want to start a list. I mainly want to know about PD that I am not already aware of but all suggestions are welcomed. And, while it resonates with me personally, let’s remove the “ostracized by family” part of the equation. I want your opinion on who is PD. [If you also send me your snail address, I’ll mail you a small token of my appreciation.]
One last thought… I had to laugh. “Positive deviants” reminds me a lot of Boing Boing‘s “happy mutants,” which they describe as “the cyberspawn of the behavioral shenanigans of the Dadaists, Surrealists, or the lesser-known but more interesting Situationists.”
Yes! It’s all connected, isn’t it? I hope this resonates with you all as much as it did with me. Either way, enjoy your week!