Photo by Ilan Sharif

I just finished reading a very interesting book called “Iconoclast” (read more about the term iconoclasm), by Gregory Berns. The book describes what is unique about people who do things that others say can’t be done. By using case studies of remarkable people from all fields of society, sports to business, science and space flight  to human rights, and combining it with new research about the way the brain works, Berns makes a compelling argument about what makes these people so unique. This basic theory is that iconoclast can be distinguished by three traits: a perceptual system that allows him to see differently from other people, the ability to conquer fear of the unknown and social intelligence to sell ideas to other people.

As usual, a few thought about this book:

1. I think tis books amplifies two messages I deal a lot with here in this blog. The first one is the importance of the comparative advantage and use of the uniqueness of strengths. As it turns out, even those people who have one of the traits of an iconoclast don’t hold all three of them. This means, that they need to corporate. They need to find someone who can complete what they lack in order to do things that can’t be done. This means that one of the most important things you can do is concentrate on your strengths and find someone else to take care of your weaknesses.

2. The second one is the importance of leadership. I already mentioned that I strongly believe that the most important role of a leader is, as Markus Buckingham describes it, to create a clear picture of the future. Because most people are afraid of the future and afraid of the unknown. The people who succussed in doing things that other thought were impossible, were not deterred by the uncertainty the future holds. They managed to overcome their fear. As a leader, your role is to help people do just that. To complete the picture, check out item number one. Maybe your ability to as a leader to make the future less frightening will be just what others need in order to bring their iconoclast ability of perception to reality.

3. One of the biggest problems iconoclast face is the ability to persuade others of their ideas. We all know this. Great inventions and discoveries take a long time to come about, many times because the guy who thought about them just has to wait for the entire current community to die or leave. In the book, Berns says that an iconoclast has two options. Either try to persuade the early adopters, which means you have to find the right way to reach them, or make your idea more compatible with present ideas. This is a known trick in presentations – if you are having a hard time explaining something new, use something old. If any of you ever saw the TV show “Numbers” you recognize the great use of everyday concepts to explain complicated mathematical ideas. This is just the same. It is what the authors of “Made to stick” call: the curse of knowledge. Your own knowledge does not allow you to see how other people who don’t know what you know think. When you are presenting something, think what your audience already knows and use that concept to explain yours.

4. Finally, reading about so many people who took the current reality and just smashed it, is inspiring. These people disregarded what everybody said and changed most of our lives. Each and every one of you can do that every day. It is simple. Just like Tim Berners Lee says in his TED talk: it is time for you to become the sort of person who just does things which will be good if everybody else did them.

5. Even if you don’t do anything ground breaking, the ride a good enough reason.


3 Responses to “Iconoclast”

  1. On the use of change in management (and not the management of change) « The Comparative Advantage Says:

    […] the book Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently (which I have written about before), Gregory Berns describes the neuroscience behind new and creative thinking. There is ample brain […]

  2. Navarro Says:

    im pretty excited to start this book

  3. sherfelad Says:

    You should be, it is a great book!

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