As practitioners, we are often asked to solve problems or simply change the state of something to remove a negative influence on our success. We’re not even necessarily tasked with turning a negative into a positive—but more often only removing the negative state. A great example of that is our own health. When we are ill, we seek help to cure the illness. But does a pill alone guarantee something other than the absence of illness (if even that)?

Tea-tasting, by Terry Madeley

In Kim Cameron’s “Developing a Teachable Point of View,” he details his method for the WHAT and HOW of teaching. The relevant excerpt for us is the concept of abundance—or a plentiful amount of the positive things in life. Cameron defines something called the “continuum of deviance” which contains three points: negative deviance, the absence of deviance (or a neutral state), and positive deviance.

Let’s go back to our example of health and illness. The three states on the continuum related to your own physical state would be Illness, Health, and Vitality. Meaning, the negative state is Illness, the absence of that negative state would be Health, and the positive state would be Vitality. Removing an illness will remove your symptoms, but without a balanced diet, meditation, and exercise, you can’t reach a state of vitality—the state of being strong and active with energy to spare.

Sample Abundance Gaps from Cameron

Cameron’s research supports much of what is found in the corporate social responsibility literature. Firms that commit to pragmatically managing to an abundant state outperform those who do not. It’s to our advantage to manage to an abundant state as it improves the bottom line.

Here’s an example that we can all relate to. If you look up at the Quality line in the table above, you will see the three points on the continuum as error-prone (negative), reliable (neutral), and flawless (positive). Imagine for a moment that every piece of technology moved into production by your organization was flawless. How much more time would we have to build new features, outflank your competitors, and give back to our communities?

It’s easy to measure. Tally up the hours spent fixing errors or generally classified as re-work. There’s your number.

So join me in looking to find and pursue abundance gaps where practical, and manage to abundance!

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