It’s an obvious question we ask too rarely.
The Save the Children program had a problem. In villages where they worked in Vietnam in the 1990s, the majority of children were malnourished.
But not all the children. Despite facing the same poverty as other villagers, some parents were able to raise healthy children. They were examples of “positive deviance.”
Rather than focusing on what was broken, the Save the Children team decided to focus on what was working. They discovered that the mothers of the best-fed children engaged in practices that were different from the norm in their village. They gave their kids smaller but more frequent meals, for example. They fed their children the greens of the sweet potato plant, rather than discarding them.
Save the Children then enlisted these mothers to teach these best practices. Malnutrition dropped precipitously.
We often focus on what is broken. We agonize over a relationship on the rocks. We knock our heads against the wall trying to solve a problem at work. We fret about our weight or blood pressure or cholesterol.
Of course, we need to address problems, but we too often focus on problems that we fail to ask, “What's working? How can we do more of that?”
If we spend time building on the examples of positive deviance in our lives, we might find that some of our problems go away.
And to my fellow Christians who believe that the empty tomb was the ultimate example of positive deviance, happy Easter! He is risen!