Discovery and Action Dialogue (DAD)

Discover, spark and unleash local solutions to chronic problems


DAD enables participants to autonomously find new approaches in performing their work routines. When people access a new thinking process, they open up to positive change. People can find a new mind-set will inspire effective solutions to common problems, while working on the task.


How to use it

  • Generate ownership among people doing the work, avoiding someone else’s best practices and strategies.
  • Discover tacit and latent behaviors that are positively divergent.
  • Generate changes that are sustained because they are developed by the people doing the work.
  • Solve local problems locally and globally transmit momentum across units.
  • Use as an ethnographic data collection tool within a multi-site research project.
  • Research and find actions to build professional competencies.
  • Use in a one-on-one conversation about how to approach a challenge.

How to apply it

Ask participants, “How can we uncover hidden and untapped solutions (i.e. tacit and latent knowhow) among people in your working group, unit, or community?”

Seven progressive questions are employed regarding a shared challenge.



5-15 people, from diverse roles and experience, form groups standing or around a table. Involve  participants who are interested in solving the problem at hand within and across functions. Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute. Facilitate with another participant serving as a recorder.


Paper to record insights and action.

7 Questions:

  1. How do you know when [the problem] is present?
  2. How do you contribute effectively to [solving the problem]?
  3. What prevents you from doing this or taking these actions all the time?
  4. Is there anyone you know who is able to frequently [solve the problem, overcoming barriers]?
  5. Do you have any ideas?
  6. What needs to be done to make it happen? Any volunteers?
  7. Who else needs to be involved?

5 minutes: state the purpose of your visit and invite brief Round Robin introductions.

15-60 minutes: Participants ask the 7 questions one-by-one in order. As participants offer answers, big insights and action ideas will unexpectedly emerge.

5 minutes: Ask the person recording to review key insights, action ideas, who else needs to be included.

How to adapt it

Use TRIZ for the first three questions.

Use insights and barriers that are revealed to script Improv Prototyping scenes.

Use the same pattern of questions for one-on-one conversations.

Use with virtual groups. Participants can use instant messaging tools to answer the questions, then select powerful stories/behaviours/actions, and share them with the whole group.

Case study


From obstacles to positive deviance


Improving gender balance in decision making research workshop (Strategic Planning Workshop)

Contact: (ILSGEN)


The facilitator started the session using TRIZ. The participants had to identify indicators and areas in which their strategy does not work. They did this by answering the question, “What can you possible do to let a gender mainstreaming strategy fail?” After identifying the indicators and areas, the facilitator

proceeded with the Discovery and action dialogue methodology (DAD). The participants were asked if they knew anyone in the group who could help them with improving their strategy. The participant with a problem in his/her strategy was grouped with another participant who knew how to solve this particular problem. The participants were not from the same institutions so it was not possible to go into the last phase (formulating action ideas and including other persons who can help) of DAD.

DAD turned out to be a valuable positive deviance methodology.


Keep the dialogue unfolding in the participants’ local context.

Create an informal ‘climate’, starting with introductions and an anecdote if appropriate.

Make sure to talk less than participants, encouraging everyone to share stories and “sift” for action opportunities. Draw out stories that help participants to increase understanding from a small example of behaviour change to a broad change in values or a shift in resource allocation (or both).

Demonstrate genuine curiosity in everyone’s contributions without answering the questions yourself.


Learn more about Positive Deviance, the inspiration for DAD, from one of the founders, Monique Sternin.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments