2012: The Year of the Positive Deviator

Posted by Energy Wire on December 23, 2011 at 5:59 AM

If 2011 was the year of “The Protester,” according to TIME, then let's declare 2012 the year of “The Positive Deviator.”
Recently, I've had a few instances where I told people what I did for a living. My answer: “I'm in marketing.” Their response: “What do you sell?”

Let me suggest that, while we are all “selling” something, there is now a paradigm around marketing: the focus is now on engagement and how the individual, community – even the planet – may benefit from what the client has asked us to “sell” for them.

I was in a meeting with a client the other day and Applied Positive Deviance came up.

“In any community, there are people whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite facing similar challenges and having no extra resources or knowledge than their peers.”

This particular client is concerned most with the question of how to engage potential students not only with a program that they have to offer, but to join them in a movement to change the status quo via proactive and positive problem-solving. The idea of positive deviance stands squarely at the center of why their audience would care about their program. Together, we're fishing for those people who could self-identify as such and join our client.

These are the people who create change. It's not revolutionary – it's evolutionary. It's taking an existing framework and working to change it from within – “the demonstrably successful uncommon behaviors are already practiced in that community within the constraints and challenges of the current situation.” And this particular client is concerned with social change. Being part of the solution, not the problem.

Appreciative Inquiry also came up recently when talking to another client about ways to engage their organization in their brand.

Appreciative Inquiry takes an alternative approach to the more typical deficiency model (“What’s wrong?” and “What needs to be fixed?”). The founding belief is that every organization, and every person in that organization, possesses positive attributes that can be built upon. This asset-based approach demands that we ask questions such as “What’s working well?” and “What’s good about what you are currently doing?”

This client in question is concerned with behavior change around energy usage, particularly energy-efficient behaviors. How can this client be seen as helpful to customers who may not assign that sentiment to them from the get-go?

What is the common ground between these two? At the root, both are concerned with managing change at the least and creating change at the best. And it is all born in a place of optimism.

All this talk of social good and behavior change is now our marketing.

Every organization, every team out to solve problems, has a positive deviator or two.  Let's embrace them – or be them – in 2012.

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