Positive Deviance Case Selection as a Method for Organizational Communication: A Rationale, How-to, and Illustration

Ryan S. Bisel, Pavitra Kavya, Sarah J. Tracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Case study remains a foundation of past and present organizational communication scholarship. In this article, we show the value of supplementing traditional case-selection methods with positive deviance case selection (PDCS). PDCS is about identifying and investigating individuals, teams, and organizations whose communication is intentional, nonnormative, and honorable. PDCS supports the creation of analytic generalizations and transferable concepts that can be recommended or imitated to bolster communicative excellence and thriving in the workplace. The article explores the benefits of and techniques for PDCS and illustrates the unique strengths of PDCS with two recent examples in the organizational communication literature. Implications for method, theory building, and practice are discussed throughout the article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-296
Number of pages18
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020



  • case study
  • method
  • positive communication scholarship
  • positive deviance
  • positive organizational communication scholarship
  • positive organizational scholarship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management

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