The Positive Deviance Approach: Uncommon Ways to Achieve Better Outcomes

Healthcare teams search for solutions to problems every day, and often find themselves frustrated by the inefficiencies and complications they come across along the way. So much so, in fact, that many healthcare team leaders are embracing the Positive Deviance Approach: the idea that people in a community can sometimes solve problems or find more efficient solutions through uncommon means.

The Positive Deviance approach is a key concept to study and incorporate when team building for healthcare professionals, whether it’s embraced by hospital administrators or taught to med students by faculty members. Below are some important ideas about positive deviance and its connection to the hospital creativity:

Search Out Positive Deviants

The word “deviant” carries a negative connotation – people tend to imagine someone who goes against the grain and causes trouble for everyone else. But a “positive deviant” is someone who successfully uses uncommon means of problem solving to stand out from his or her peers. Positive deviants are a great resource to have in a healthcare team culture of creativity because they will consistently drive innovation and help keep the creativity flowing in your healthcare team. However, it’s important to note that you should be on the lookout for team processes becoming routine; when teams work together repeatedly, they tend to be less creative. Positive deviants are not immune to this phenomenon, and a team leader should be cognizant of this fact.

How Positive Deviants Spread Knowledge

Knowledge is a critical component when building a culture of creativity in a healthcare team because team members can’t be expected to provide creative solutions for problems they know nothing about. Positive deviance can spread knowledge about many complicated healthcare issues through the examination of case studies where healthcare teams solved difficult problems in unique and uncommon ways. Such case studies could include information about these positive deviants and give an understanding about whether their experience can be transferred to your healthcare team.

Ideal Setting for Innovation

Positive deviance provides the ideal setting for innovation. Healthcare teams that incorporate positive deviance practices into their methods discover better solutions and ways to handle tasks. It is important that healthcare team leaders allow this innovation to happen naturally – leaders should provide team members with the tools they need to complete their tasks, but they should also allow team members to come up with solutions on their own instead of being told how to approach them. The culture of creativity thrives under this ideal setting, and innovation and successful problem-solving will be the end result.

Download our free eBook, Building a Team Culture of Creativity, for more strategies to achieve better outcomes by finding creative and efficient solutions to many of the problems you currently face.

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