Positive Deviance is the Epitome of Innovation in the Healthcare Industry

”The Power of Positive Deviance” explores a concept that could revolutionize your health care organization.

Positive Deviancev2.jpg


At Waggl every morning begins with our daily stand-up. It’s a way we connect inter-departmentally and share information, achievements, and ideas.This brief forum gives everyone in the company about two minutes to share their highlight from the day before, and their aspirations for the day ahead


Jedd is one of our Q&A programmers and technical support team lead. and at Waggl, he’s about as much of a veteran as you can be in a start-up. In one particular morning meeting he shared that he was reading a book called “The Power of Positive Deviance,” and that it was particularly Waggly. (Yes, the word Waggl can be used in any tense.)


At Waggl we are diving in headfirst to create solutions for multiple industries. As we scale up our operations we create customized solutions for each industry. Healthcare is an industry we care deeply about serving because it just affects so many people. Jedd immediately noted that the concept would be an incredible compliment to the Waggl platform.


Positive Deviance is an approach to behavioral and social change. It is based on the observation that in every community there are people whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers. This success occurs despite the fact that the individual’s face similar challenges, and have no extra resources or knowledge that their peers. These individuals are referred to as positive deviants.


“The Power of Positive Deviance,” is a book by Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin. They explore how the concept can create revolutionary change in communities dealing with disease epidemics, malnutrition, and other large-scale health concerns. Jerry and Monique Sternin were the first individuals to implement the concept of positive deviance in Vietnam during their work with Save The Children in the 1990’s.


Given an extremely short time frame to address widescale malnutrition among Vietnamese children, the Sternins’ set to work first establishing a baseline. They followed through with the seven steps now known as the foundation of positive deviance.


  1. An invitation to change

  2. Defining the problem

  3. Determining the presence of Positive Deviant individuals or groups

  4. Discovering uncommon practices or behaviors

  5. Program design

  6. Monitoring and evaluation

  7. Scaling up


In that first experiment in Vietnam, the Sternins’ encountered a population where 64% of the children studied were malnourished. Parents and the community were eager to accept an invitation to change, and of course could see how malnutrition was a problem impacting their community.


Through a lengthy process of observation and data recording positive deviants were revealed. These were people who despite similar means as others were managing to raise children that were sufficiently well-nourished. Careful study of these positive deviants revealed the subtle changes they made to their children’s diets using slightly different feeding techniques, attention to hygiene, and the incorporation of other foods that were plentiful and free in the area.


A program was designed based on those findings, and emphasized hands on training to empower the community to adopt new best practices. The program was monitored to measure its success, and then scaled up to address the problem in a larger sampling of the community.


In this first experiment, the Sternins’ reduced childhood malnutrition by 85%. The program was subsequently used in over 40 countries to address nutrition. The innovative approach has been applied to help stop the spread of hospital-borne infections, identify most effective care practices, and to help determine solutions for multiple other public health scenarios.


What Jedd observed was that Waggl could be used as an effective tool to start establishing that baseline knowledge for organizations looking to implement positive deviance. Waggl could help  people discover what the basic problem that needs to be solved is, and once that happens they can use Waggl to help find the positive deviant and implement transformational change.


We find profound connection between the positive deviance value of collective intelligence: the belief that intelligence is not dispersed from the leadership down, but is instead distributed throughout the entire community. At Waggl this belief is at our core. We believe that communities and organizations are strongest when everyone has a voice, and those voices are heard.


Effective health care depends on the engagement of the community as a whole, and on the activation of every voice to discover individualized solutions.


To learn more, pick up a copy of “The Power of Positive Deviance,” or contact us for a demo to see how Waggl can help your organization come up with unique industry solutions.