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Speed Review: The Deviant’s Advantage

Speed Review: The Deviant’s Advantage

Speed Review: The Deviant’s Advantage

How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets

by Watts Wacker & Ryan Mathews

Mathews and Wacker, two futurists from the trend-watching consulting firm FirstMatter, write that deviance is responsible for all the things that make life what it is: art, scientific breakthroughs, technological advances and physical evolution. They write that it is nothing more than a measurable distance from the norm and The Deviant’s Advantage demonstrates how everything normal is touched by deviance and changed in some way, faster than imaginable.

Review

From Fringe Ideas to Markets for the Masses
"Deviant behavior" is a loaded term. In its negative form, it can be used to define the most unspeakable evil. In its positive form, it can represent the kind of transformational change that takes fringe ideas and turns them into mass markets. This positive deviant behavior is the subject of The Deviant's Advantage, and the authors write that deviance is the source of all innovation and the opportunity innovation presents.

Mathews and Wacker, two futurists from the trend-watching consulting firm FirstMatter, write that deviance is responsible for all the things that make life what it is: art, scientific breakthroughs, technological advances and physical evolution. They write that it is nothing more than a measurable distance from the norm and The Deviant's Advantage demonstrates how everything normal is touched by deviance and changed in some way, faster than imaginable.

The Deviant's Advantage also assumes that "changes in society drive changes in business, and that as society becomes more and more deviant, businesses in turn have to become more deviant to prosper, or even survive." The authors track the linear path that deviance follows from the time it springs from its creator's mind to the time it becomes an established social norm. This pattern is described as the movement from the Fringe, to the Edge, to the Realm of the Cool, to the Next Big Thing, and finally to Social Convention. From its morphed position as a Social Convention, deviance can then either become a Cliché, an Icon, an Archetype, or disappear into Oblivion. The authors write that, although not all deviance that starts on the Fringe will become a Social Convention, all Social Conventions began as Fringe thinking.

The Power of the Devox
Throughout The Deviant's Advantage, the authors use the term "devox" to describe the voice, spirit or incarnation of deviant ideas, products and individuals. They write that the products, markets and ideas that emerge in the wake of the devox are sometimes positive and sometimes negative. As examples of positive deviation, the authors cite the popularization of jazz, the mainstream acceptance of the value of a holistic approach to medicine, and even personal computing.

In The Deviant's Advantage, the authors use numerous examples to demonstrate the persistence of the devox, and provide a blueprint for identifying the essence of deviance, whether it appears in an idea, an individual, a product, a service, or an offering that blends all of these elements. Using this blueprint, they help others use the voice of deviance to create positive change in their organizations and their lives.

The authors explain that art, science, communication protocols and faith systems are all evolving at exponential rates - what is out on the Fringe today may become mainstream tomorrow. Managing the Edge requires a constant exposure to ideas and people that are foreign, uncomfortable and often hostile. Markets of increasing size arise as ideas move from the Fringe to Social Convention, and authenticity diminishes along the way. The authors explain that it is possible to take the vision of deviance they present and turn it into specific actions and a mind-set that can move a business forward.

It Starts with Social Change
By examining how the devox manifests itself in a variety of areas and exploring what these changes mean to business, the authors present a foundation for their belief that changes in business follow changes in society, and understanding what lies ahead for commerce is dependent on understanding social change.

The last part of The Deviant's Advantage describes many ways that businesses can use positive deviance to their advantage and offers a "Deviant's Toolbox" to help them profit from the business opportunities it offers. One tool is mining a deviant core. The authors describe this as the process of rigorously and objectively examining your business to identify core competencies and then finding new, deviantly creative ways to deploy them. Another tool is a formalized opposites analysis: Instead of focusing on its departure lounges, British Airways profited by putting attention into its arrivals lounge.

Why Soundview Likes This Book
The authors turn a provocative idea into sound business reasoning with an abundant collection of examples and anecdotes. By providing so many relevant examples of people and ideas that have risen from the Fringe to the mainstream, The Deviant's Advantagebecomes the catalyst for new ideas about the future of business and culture that organizations will need to become prepared for what lies ahead.