On the second day of the 5th Global Peter Drucker Forum, Ben Ramalingam stated that policy and practice have come to be like bikes, in the sense that they have been created through incremental changes and improvements.
Their positive deviance is the off the chart performance of certain children, leading to long tails on a normal distribution curve. This deviance is a great challenge for the public sector, which is generally used to dealing with averages.
Humanitarian aid in Africa is facing a similar problem where standardized solutions based on aggregates have not worked out the way they had predicted to. Differing practices were applied by humanitarian groups by identifying families that had avoided diseases and investigating the way by which they had done so. When doing so the groups faced the problem of looking at averages as opposed to the positive deviance. In order to rectify this, aid groups looked through the process of evolution, not in a Darwinian way, but by looking at variations in habits and routines. This successfully enabled the villagers to make small changes in their behavior, leading to massive improvements in health, particularly in the area of malnutrition, which was reduced by 85% in the villages where this concept was used.
The method is now being used by many companies today, and has been described by Gary Hamel as a vital method for making positive change.
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Independent Consultant, Overseas Development Institute
He has worked with and advised leading development and humanitarian organisations including UN bodies, NGOs, the Red Cross movement, and government agencies. He is Chair of the , the first mechanism dedicated to supporting innovation in international disaster response, which he designed and co-founded.
Ben currently holds honorary and visiting positions at the London School of Economics, the Overseas Development Institute, the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University and the Royal Veterinary College.Ben is author of Aid on the Edge of Chaos: Rethinking International Cooperation in a Complex World (Oxford University Press, October 2013)