Sunday, June 7, 2009

Suggestions for Becomming a Positive Deviant

I recently started reading a book entitled "Better" by Atul Gawande. Atul is a young surgeon and the book is a treatise on improving performance in health care. So far it's an excellent book that I'm sure I'll comment on again in this blog. I started reading this book by reading the Epilogue first, something I don't typically do but the title fascinated me (the same title as this blog entry).

Gawande lists five ways to make a difference as a "positive deviant," which I think is a great name for a leader of change! His suggestions are unique and helpful for any change agent.

1. Ask an unscripted question. A surgeon makes his living talking to strangers, so he argues "why not learn something about them?" The same holds true for any change leader. Taking a sincere interest in others will do wonders when it comes time to lead them out of their comfort zones.
2. Don't complain. Be prepared with something positive to comment on when others around you begin to complain. Nothing saps your energy and creativeness like a bunch of people sitting around complaining.
3. Count something. You won't find this on many self help lists, but I think it is profound. He suggests that you find something interesting to you and start counting and analyzing. While a resident Gawande began to count patients who suffered post surgical complications because an instrument or sponge had been forgotten and left inside them. He found that the mishaps happened most often in emergency procedures or procedures that revealed unexpected results (like finding cancer during a gall bladder surgery). He soon worked with some colleagues to develop an automated system for keeping track of instruments and sponges. Count something that interests you and then make changes to improve!
4. Write something. It doesn't matter what you write, he says. A journal, a letter, even a blog! "Writing lets you step back and think through a problem. Even the angriest rant forces the writer to achieve a degree of thoughtfulness." Writing for an audience, no matter how small, makes yourself part of a larger world. I'm also hoping it keeps me accountable to always reading and learning new things that others might find interesting.
5. Change! People respond to change in one of three ways: A few become early adopters, most become late adopters, and a few become persistent skeptics who never stop resisting. Have you seen this in your change leadership efforts? In spite of the risks, make yourself an early adopter. It's the best way to make a difference in your life and the world around you.

Not only are these great suggestions for doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators, but they are also great suggestions for any leader of change. Challenge yourself this week to embrace at least one of these by creating a new habit and becoming a "positive deviant!"

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