Posted on

INNOVATION·CONTENT·CULTURE & THE DEVIANTS ADVANTAGE

 Staying with the CONTENT CONNECTS theme …   In 2002 there was a book published called THE DEVIANTS ADVANTAGE from a book review:

We will be discussing the role of Cultural Deviation, Trend Spotting,  The Media & Consumer Response this week.The Deviant’s Advantage

How Fringe Ideas Create Mass Markets
by Watts Wacker & Ryan Mathews
The Deviant’s Advantage
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

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 andThe 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. Copyright (c) 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

FROM FAST COMPANY ON THE BOOK 

Here’s the raw truth: Deviance is the source of all innovation. It’s the wellspring of new ideas, new products, new personalities, and, ultimately, new markets. It can be a force for good or for evil (and sometimes both). In its purest sense, deviance is really nothing more — or less — than any one of us taking one measurable step away from the middle of the road. Extend that step once more, and you’ll find yourself moving from the comfort of the accepted into the fast-paced world of the trendsetter. Take another small step, and you’ll land in the rarified realm of the ultracool avant-garde. Venture one hesitant step further, and you are in the sometimes seductive, more often frightening world of the cultist and the fanatic. Dare to take that last lone step, and you’ll crash head-on into the heart of social darkness: the world of naked, pure, unabashed, and largely frightening deviance.

The devox describes how deviance — in individuals, ideas, or products — is expressed as it vectors across a fixed, linear, predictable, and measurable passage from the “Fringe” (where it first appears in the mind of a true deviant) to the “Edge” (where it picks up a small following) to the “Realm of the Cool” (where it begins to develop a broader following among trendsetters) to an arena we call the “Next Big Thing” (where the formerly unthinkable becomes almost de rigueur) until it finally arrives at “Social Convention.”

At the beginning of every transforming, mass-market creation is the deviant on the Fringe. That goes for rock and roll, tattooing, and computing (as well as a huge number of truly crackpot schemes that never got beyond the Fringe). In the beginning, the devox has an audience of one — the original deviant. Sometimes, the devox is only audible to a hermit, a mystic, or a psychotic. But it always manifests itself first on the Fringe, where the lone deviant is the only one interested in communicating it.

The next step along the path to Social Convention is the Edge, a zone that is a single notch over from the Fringe. There, the devox starts to find an audience, as the solitary deviant finally leaves his apartment and begins preaching on the street or the artist begins to show her work to a handful of trusted acquaintances. At the Edge, embryonic markets begin to form. The devox starts to develop limited commercial appeal, carried by followers of the original deviant, who spread the message by word of mouth. The audience expands, but a trace of the vision’s authenticity begins to diminish.

Rock and roll moved to the Edge when African and African-American slaves turned the chants of their forebears into field calls and work songs in the American South. The sounds of West Africa were morphed and modified by other devoxes, vectoring into the space that was occupied by the sounds of Southern Christian churches and the indigenous music of the next-lowest social tier: indentured servants from Ireland, Scotland, and other lands.

Tattooing migrated to the Edge when the first modern sailors and explorers encountered tattooed “primitives” and made the decision to “go native.” Decorating your skin wasn’t something that respectable people back home did. But these sailors weren’t respectable people, and they didn’t mind wearing the badge of the misfit on their skin (or under it).

Several Edge dwellers can be credited with moving computing over from the Fringe. The most likely carrier of the devox was Charles Babbage, who designed his “Difference Engine No. 1” in 1821. Babbage never actually produced a working model of his machine, which owed much to other inventors (including Joseph Marie Jacquard, a French weaver who pioneered the first punch cards). But Babbage clearly played a seminal role in transferring the idea of computing machines from the Fringe to the Edge, headed toward the Realm of the Cool — the next stop in its continuing evolution.

As the devox enters the Realm of the Cool, it acquires a small but rapidly growing audience, in part because the idea is starting to win slightly more favorable media coverage. What was once unconscionable is now considered to be daring and provocative. It’s at this point that real markets begin to form, nurtured by Cool Hunters and other for-hire trend spotters and culture vultures.

You can almost trace the evolution of rock and roll into the Realm of the Cool on a map of America, tracing how jazz, blues, and “race records” (early rhythm and blues) migrated up U.S. Highway 61, from towns like Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta north to St. Louis, Chicago, and New York. The blues buried itself in Chicago’s South Side juke joints. Jazz found its way to New York’s Cotton Club. Rhythm and blues began to ferment into what would one day become the vintage Motown sound in Detroit’s Paradise Valley and Black Bottom. Whatever the city, the pattern was the same: White audiences were hypnotically drawn to what were primarily segregated venues, lured by a chance to hear the raucous joy of African-American music as it matured and evolved. (Never mind that it was being played and sung by people they would never live next door to or let their daughters marry.)

Tattooing entered the Realm of the Cool immediately after World War II when legions of rather sheepish servicemen returned to respectable society bearing the indelible mark of one or more nights of mixing a dangerous blend of testosterone and alcohol. The members of the Greatest Generation may have publicly wished that they had never gotten that anchor, eagle, hula dancer, or remembrance of “Mom” on their arms, but there it was — a graphic reminder of a time when they were young and life was more exciting.

In 1927, computing edged its way into the Realm of the Cool when Vannevar Bush designed “Product Intergraph” — an analog computer that could solve simple equations — with the help of two colleagues at MIT. Product Intergraph and its 1930 successor, the Differential Analyzer, proved to be so popular that they served to slow down the development of digital-computer models.

Once the devox achieves audience size and market scale in the Realm of the Cool, it’s ready to move on to the Next Big Thing. At that point, the original deviant is little more than a distant reference point, and the devox has become sanitized, commercialized, and packaged. Conventional society may flirt with the devox when it’s in the Realm of the Cool. But when the devox hits the Next Big Thing, those in the mainstream become genuinely engaged with it.

Rock and roll entered the realm of the Next Big Thing when Elvis Presley (whose career is in itself an interesting example of a human devox moving from the Fringe to Social Convention and beyond) jump-started the engine built by early rockers such as Bill Haley. Elvis was the dream incarnate of Sun Records’ founder Sam Phillips: a white boy who sang as if he were black. True, Elvis’s version of “Hound Dog” was less menacing than the original version recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, an enormous African-American woman who routinely appeared onstage dressed as a man. Big Mama’s growling delivery of “Hound Dog” on Peacock Records left no doubt about the song’s subject: the pleasures and pain of backdoor sex. But it fell to Elvis to smooth out the menace from the message, to slide the devox from the Realm of the Cool to the Next Big Thing, and to ride the song to teenage mass-market glory.

If Elvis was rock’s triumphant carrier, then Cher can take equal credit for moving tattooing into the arena of the Next Big Thing. Here was a card-carrying member of the “beautiful people” tribe who chose to adorn her skin with ink after she had already become famous! All of a sudden, athletes, actors, and musicians used body ink as a way of telling the world that they were big enough and powerful enough to reject social taboos. Tattoos shifted from being badges of guilty pleasure (or nights only dimly remembered) to being visible status symbols proudly worn.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s