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September 16, 2002

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - The Deviant's Advantage

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 9:45 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Deviants Advantage: How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets by Ryan Mathews and Watts Wacker, Crown Business, 280 Pages, $25.95 Hardcover, September 2002, ISBN 0609609580 The track record of an author can greatly assist me in the discovery of a great book. This book, The Deviants Advantage, is the CSN&Y (thats Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for those of you who are not music junkies) of business books. Watts Wacker, author of The 500 Year Delta and The Visionarys Handbook and Ryan Mathews, author of The Myth of Excellence, such notable authors in their own right, have teamed up to write a superb book which premiered on the March 2002 cover of Fast Company. That said, there are innumerable books with similarly strong resumes that have never lived up to the hype. Not so here. This book is interesting from the get-go. It introduces us to examples of cultural deviance turned mainstream (The Beatles), explains the need for welcoming deviance/deviants in corporate culture (that kid in the mailroom with the nose ring who designs the little doohicky that will eventually make your company 10 million bucks) and shows us that deviance (read: innovation) is available for mining within each of us. Dont be put off by the implied recklessness or rebelliousness inherent in the word deviant. The authors are not implying that you need to hire criminals, lose control of your staff, or take up with a religious cult. Instead, they make it clear that [t]he book champions the deviant impulse but is not championing all forms of deviant behavior. Of course, there is positive and negative deviancethe former a force for transformation, the latter a source of unspeakable evil. Were concerned here with positive deviance, the kind of transformational change that takes fringe ideas and morphs them into mass markets. The authors claim and demonstrate very effectively that deviance is the source of all innovation; thus, since innovation is imperative to growing your business, then deviance also is crucial to your business. Once a companys culture embraces deviant (innovative) ideas, the next step is learning how to tell the difference between the deviant ideas that will succeed in entering the mainstream and those that are simply, well, deviant ideas. Mathews and Wacker effectively show the journey a radical idea takes before becoming acceptable to the masses. First existing on the Fringe, the idea moves to the Edge, then to the Realm of the Cool, then to The Next Big Thing, and finally to Social Convention. From the art houses to the suburbs. This book is chock full of effective and entertaining stories using such heavyweights as Elvis, the WWF, Linus Torvalds, and Volkswagen to help us see how (good) deviant ideas emerge to take a conventional place in the mass market. Entertaining and important, this is The Tipping Point for the fall of 2002. The Deviants Advantage exceeds all expectations and I recommend it because everyone should walk on the wild sideat least once in awhile.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.