The Four Workarounds
wORKAROUNDS is a deviation from the norm. They are nonconformity. Conformity is not all bad; we often do it without much thought. But there are times when we are better served if we ask why and maybe deviate from what is expected.
Oxford University professor Paulo Savaget makes a distinction between disobedience and deviance The Four Workarounds: Strategies from the World’s Most Disruptive Organizations for Dealing with Complex Problems. He says that disobedience is not the opposite of conformity. “Disobedience is openly against the establishment, and the establishment almost always retaliates in kind. Deviance, on the other hand, is trickier. Deviation involves unconventional methods that use parts of the status quo that work (as intended or not) to change parts that don’t. Deviance is the opposite of conformity.
Savaget identifies three methods of deviating or standing out from the crowd. First, there is confrontation which “always means a clash against the dominant power structure.” Second, there is negotiation to put pressure “on authority figures to legitimize changes in the rules system.” And finally, there’s the workaround. “Through workarounds, we can quickly get things done and challenge the status quo without directly challenging the rule enforcers.” Workarounds are the lowest risk option for moving something.
There are four workarounds each using a different attribute. Knowing each method will help you determine the best response to getting things done.
“The piggyback workaround enables us to avoid all kinds of obstacles and solve our problems by using seemingly unrelated relationships.” Piggyback often creates relationships between unconventional partners. Piggybacks occur “between silos instead of in them.”
A couple solved the problem of distributing life-saving medicines in Sub-Saharan Africa by piggybacking on the distribution of Coca-Cola which is readily available in the region. Oreo piggybacked clever Twitter advertising on the 2013 Super Bowl power outage.
“The loophole may be exploiting an ambiguity or using an unusual set of rules when they are not the clearest available.” When looking for loopholes, remember that “there’s more than one way to be right, and simply following or breaking the rules isn’t always the best way to get something done. Usually there is an option that is in between. “
A roundabout may not solve the problem, but it will buy us time until we find a permanent solution. It can be useful if you use the time wisely. “Roundabouts are not so much dealing with systemic challenges as stopping self-reinforcing attitudes and but time to mobilize, negotiate, and create alternatives, mitigating an urgent problem while building momentum to pivot in another direction.”
The Next Best
The next best workarounds use what’s available to solve an immediate goal. “Using limited resources, scrappy organizations and mavericks teach us that often the best way forward is not to focus on what should be done, but instead to focus on the available opportunities that are likely to be overlooked.”
A great example of a next best solution is the non-profit Rainforest Connection to prevent illegal logging. By repurposing old cell phones strategically placed in the rainforest listen for the sound of chainsaws, they are able to send real-time alerts to security guards and community patrols with logging locations to catch loggers in the act.
Each of the workarounds has a primary element at play. When you think about piggybacks, think about existing relationships in your situation. Holes require careful attention to different sets of rules. Roundabouts involve examining behaviors that lead to inattention. And if you’re looking for the next best methods, use the resources you have. Not every situation requires using each of these four workarounds, and that’s okay. In the end, you only need one solution for most challenges.
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