Creative deviants are people who come up with
inventive ways to circumvent the norm. In my work it is not unusual to
find people operating outside the system to get things done. Often
these folks have hit upon something important, worth paying attention
I recall my early days at the World Bank when we were trying to find
communities of professionals working together. We found project teams,
committees, and working groups – but none of these had the
self-organizing intentionality you associate with an honest-to-god
Then we found one group, the highway group, run by a guy who had been
injecting enthusiasm and creativity for years into highway people all
around the world – not just World Bank employees but anyone who was
working on highways. He had developed a thriving community despite our
work environment, which I would describe as toxic to genuine community.
We talked with him, followed him around, talked to his colleagues and
discovered what made him different. He combined two attributes rarely
found in the same person: (1) he was recognized world-class expert in
his field, and (2) he liked to bring people together and regularly
organized lunches, conferences, phone calls, and other
interactions. We had met plenty of people who were one or the
other, but not both. This guy was a creative deviant.
Eventually, with some trial and error, we were able to bottle his
magic. When we did we grew over 100 communities in just two
years. That was in 1996. Twelve years later a study was done
revealing that 96 of those communities were still in existence. So the
change we engendered had sustained.
We learned a lot from that highway guy. He was a creative deviant who
taught us how to create thriving, sustainable communities in our
Where are the creative deviants you can learn from? Look around!
Who about you is succeeding despite the odds? Who is doing strange
things that work, and how are they doing them?
What about you? What are you doing that is outside the system, but
generating the results you want from life? Maybe there is a
pattern worth replicating. Maybe there is something worth
understanding. Maybe one part of your life has the very message another
part of your life has been looking for!
rules, live the life you want, and change the world.”
– Chris Guillebeau