Encourage Positive Deviance


Leading Innovation


Lesson Info

Encourage Positive Deviance

The last piece I want to get to is about encouraging positive deviance. And by that, I'm asking you to encourage the outliers. The people who are doing something just totally out of line. Maybe they're people who disobey. Do you know anything about teaching seeing eye dogs? Right? Seeing eye dog. Interesting truth about teaching seeing eye dogs. The number one reason that seeing eye dogs flunk out is not because they learn to follow commands it's because they cannot learn to disobey. So, at the next level of graduation in teaching a seeing eye dog, you take them to the side of a busy road and you need them to think on their own. You need them to decide, if the owner says okay let's go step off the curb. And the dog says no, it's not safe. No. The number one reason is a failure to disobey when in your view, it's the right thing to do. We see this in organizations all the time. People who come up with a fantastic idea, that's out of line. And bum, we destroy it through the culture, we de...

stroy it and so. Again, I want to push on this important idea about it's easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting. I want to talk for a second about the importance, again, borrowing the brilliance. And the work of a guy named Richard Nesbitt. Richard Nesbitt, he's a professor at the University of Michigan, and he's working again with two different populations of kids, Americans and Japanese. Okay, so. In his work in psychology he took a group of American kids. They're all from Orlando, Walla Walla, Washington, Kankakee, Illinois, etc. And, then he had a group of Japanese students who'd never been in the United States. Got on a plane, flew in, got to Detroit, took the bus. Over to the campus. And they're brand new in the United States, never seen this place before. And then what he did was he showed them a series of images. And the images had a focal point and a background. Like the jet over the mountains. The tiger in the jungle. The cow in the field. But here is the interesting thing, as he was working with these students, he hooked their head up to a machine that would track their eye movement. So it would follow exactly what they were looking at as they looked at these specific images. Pretty interesting stuff. So in this example, this is what the Japanese students looked at on average in aggregate as they looked at this specific image. So here what you see is they're looking at the context, the environment, the jungle. There is a little bit of emphasis on, oh what is this? Yes, it's a tiger. I see this focal point. But more interested in the context of where it is. Their American colleagues, the American students, this is what they looked at as they looked at this very same image. There is an overwhelming emphasis of course, on the focal point in the tiger and very much, much less emphasis on the environment and the landscape around and another little piece. Then he said to the students okay go take some pictures of your friends and your classmates and just submit your photographs on your smartphone. The photograph on the left is indicative of what the Americans took in terms of their portraits of their own classmates. Very, very close aspect ratio. Strong emphasis on the face. And on the right, much more context, environmental interests and like where is this person, in what environment? What is she doing? Okay this is interesting. But of course the point of all this is that people quite literally see the world differently not just intellectually, but they see it and it translates to different ways that they see it in their work. In another piece of the study, they call it change blindness. So, they're showing like a fish with one background and then in the next slide it's the same fish with a different background. An the Japanese kids, were three times more likely to detect a change in the environment in the context. The point of course is, the greater the diversity that we can get in our organization, the better ideas we can get. So here is your exercise. Here is the to do. And the exercise is who can we include. So let's play a little game here. Who in your life, is very, very high agreement and very high understanding. So that's this quadrant here. Who would that be in your life? They really understand you, and they agree with you. Could be a partner. A spouse. Yeah. Or I'd say like your close colleagues for example, the people you work with very closely. How about those people. You have high degree of understanding but a low degree of agreement. You don't agree with these people. You understand them. But you don't agree with them. Who are these kinds of people in your life? IT. You know. I say your teenager right? So in this context you understand where they've been. You know what they've lived through but you no longer agree because you've sort of matured out of that circumstance and you can see, the world differently. This was my joke about people of low agreement, low understanding, the procurement process. Or those who have high agreement, but low understanding. This is often people with shared interests. So let's say you all like to go watch the Seattle Seattle Sounders play soccer nearby in the stadium. You share that interest, but you really don't know very much about each other. Just from that one data point, right? These are like say sports fans for example, or in the upper right you have your life partners or what I call down here are foreign interests, meaning you just don't know anything about them. Or this, I like to call discarded interests. This is, yeah you went there, you learned that and then it's no longer relevant for you. But you still understand these people. You just don't agree with them anymore. This little exercise is for you to help think of the constellation of people in your organization in your life and my point, my ask, please do this. Have coffee, have three cups of tea, have a donut, have a meal, have a lunch with these people. These people. Not these people. All the time. Right? And then if you're up for it. If you're strong. Go have lunch with these people. Right? Then you have a really strange and interesting conversation. So if you can dissect the constellation of people in your life and break it down into these sort of quadrants and understand how you can bring and borrow brilliance into your work it will enrich us all.

Class Description

For business leaders and managers, finding the key to creating a high-performing, innovative team can feel impossible. Most of the time, you’re too stressed, exhausted and depleted to do anything more than just get by. Or you might even secretly question your ability to ever be a great leader.

This course on leadership innovation provides you with a clear roadmap for creating an environment that inspires trust, cohesiveness, agility and innovation. You’ll learn the simple actions you can do every day to bring out the best in yourself and those around you.

Shawn Hunter, author of “Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact,” will show you how listening intently, acting with kindness, showing gratitude, embracing challenges and other actions can help you grow into a successful, impactful leader.

In this course, you’ll learn how to:

  • Build your self-confidence.
  • Create learning goals instead of performance goals.
  • Use social diversity and social risk to drive innovative thinking.
  • Get rid of fear among your team members.
  • Escape the trap of “arrested decay.”
  • Turn great ideas into concrete actions.
  • Develop your own leadership narrative.


Steven Seiller

These topics are profoundly impactful and are truly the magic of intentional change! I do wish this class is at least a half-day longer, because who doesn't need more magic to fuel your passions?!?

Manisha Dayal