The odds are excellent that the breakthrough ideas of the future will ultimately come from the mind of someone who lives as a “deviant lifestyle” – who lives outside the accepted norms of society. Why? Just because positive deviance is an inexhaustible source of fresh thinking.  It is where most new ideas and original business concepts emerge.

Most of today’s successes started out on the fringe of society.  They then move gradually to the point where they are accepted and adopted by the masses. This path from the fringe to the mainstream is traceable and predictable.

Deviance as a positive construct. Most of all innovation and advancement of society start here, on the fringe.  In fact, unless people were prepared to try new ideas, there would be no new commerce. Harvard: Deviance being positive. 

With the structural change of the Internet, new ideas to move from the fringe to mainstream much more quickly.  Therefore, the trick is not to delay.  Instead, understand the journey.

This understanding can be a huge success factor.   Instead of attempting to identify the next big thing warming up on the sideline, go earlier in the process. Unearth the “new” that currently exists only on the fringe.  Why?….the most significant opportunities lie there: the fringe.

As Francis Bacon once said, “Opportunity, tho she is often blind, she is not invisible.”

The fringe is where commercial opportunities start.  The ones with the most DyVal (Dynamic Value) will find their way into masses. The earlier in the process they are discovered, the more potential there is for success.  You get to participate in creating the future when you can do this.  Success favors the bold who operate on the fringe/edge. Patrick Jagar: The importance of being unique.

The challenge is simple: identify and harness the breakthrough concepts lurking on the fringe of society.

These breakthrough concepts follow a well-defined trajectory on their evolutionary journey from the fringe to social convention.  They pass through five distinct stages:

  1. The Fringe, where anything goes. This is where the nonconformists are trying out all sorts of concepts and ideas. These people are usually considered odd by society standards.  They may or may not attract a following.  Now, with the availability of the Internet, these people are able to gather an audience of true believers, although they usually are not interested in trappings of fame or financial profit for themselves.
  2. The Edge, where word of mouth creates a small market. The curious and the supporters test drive the new concept.  The edge is often inhabited by a hip crowd who want to be the first to express something new.  Successful futurists and trend spotters identify what is happening on the edge because this is can be a precursor of what is going to be the future.
  3. The Realm of the Cool, where buzz starts to gather—This is the trendy crowd who pride themselves on being up-to-the-minute with what’s hot. This is where “the new” starts gaining both publicity and a market. This is generally where the biggest financial success starts.
  4. The Next Big Thing, where demand intensifies. “The new” is now getting hot. It is getting ready to move to prime time. Consumer demand grows rapidly here. It’s success now seems almost inevitable.
  5. Social convention, where “The new” lands. It now is mainstream. Almost everyone signs on to the new idea; it starts being adopted as a regular practice. This is where the mass-market soul resides. Important point: not everything on the Fringe makes it to Social Convention yet everything in Social Convention started on the edge.

The near future is already lurking on the fringe. The challenge is to identify these changes early and then harness them.  New ideas and concepts in a rudimentary state are continually forming on the fringes of society.  The vast majority of these ideas never catch fire. When they do, they start a journey moving steadily into the mainstream of life.

There will always be new ideas warming up in the wings ready to make their entrance. The sooner “the new” can be identified, the better.  As a general rule: the earlier one discovers “the new,” the larger the premium.

Deviance and deviant mean something or someone operating away from the norm.   Championing the deviant impulse (but not all forms of deviant behavior) is critical to success.

Deviance and deviant mean something or someone operating away from the norm.   Championing the deviant impulse (but not all forms of deviant behavior) is critical to success.

The discipline: focus on the Edge. The new Edge is generally messy and untamed.  By the time “the new” goes beyond this phase it is almost always a mere shadow of its primary deviance.  It usually is stripped of much of its authenticity and, as a result, its impact is reduced.  Important point: staying in touch with the Edge requires constant exposure to different ideas and people; for most interacting with individuals in this space is uncomfortable.  However, it must be embraced it on its terms. Stanford University: The importance of positive deviance.

Rarely, if ever, are the “Fringers” the ones who benefit the most from their creation.  It is those who identify the Fringers’ creation(s) and harness it (whatever it is) for the good of the many who benefit the most.  That can be you!!

I am a comprehensivist:

“What can I do for you?”


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Attorney, real estate developer, businessman, educator, editor, scholar, inventor, negotiator, author, visionary and public speaker. Marshall holds a BA degree from Union College of New York: The Cohen H. Kerr award for the highest academic average at Boston University; Boston University’s Utopia Award and the Maud Folsom Foundation Award which grants an annual scholarship for as long as an individual attends school or until age thirty-five.
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