Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I just finished reading Iconoclast from Gegory Burns. It is about how the brain sabotages creative thinking for most ordinary people.

An iconoclast is a person who does something that others say can’t be done. It is clear that the current crises (financial, environmental, energy, government, industrial age corporations) is in urgent need of a new approach. It was Einstein who said that you cannot solve a problem at the level at which it originated. So, you need iconoclasts/pioneers/change agents in your organization, who think differently. They should be nurtured and supported.

The iconoclastic brain differs in these three functions and the circuits that implement them:

  • Perception
  • Fear response
  • Social intelligence


Perception is heavily influenced by past experience and what other people say. To see things differently the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before. Well that is happening today, the financial crisis has proportions, which we have never seen before. The climate change is now widely accepted to be very urgent. Twitter plays a role in supporting the uprising in Iran, Obama got his job by cleverly creating a grassroots movement with the help of the internet.

Perception can be changed through experience. Bombard the brain with new experiences. Leaders in organizations need to leave their boardrooms and visit companies where they work radically different (e.g. Semco, Best Buy), visit Asian countries and Africa. This to see that the world is changing at a rapid speed and that they have to move as well.


Novelty however triggers the fear system of the brain. Fear of uncertainty/the unknown, fear of failure and fear of public ridicule inhibit iconoclastic thinking within organizations.

It is crucial to deal with this fear. It is also generally understood that we will not go back to the old situation (from before the credit crunch) again. The successful companies will deal efficiently with this uncertainty.

If organizations reappraise all sources of stress as an opportunity to discover something new or find a market niche that other people are afraid of, stress may itself decrease.

For most people the fear of pain or loss is enough to deter them from action. That is making the situation worse. What you can do is to fully support the iconoclasts in your organization, so that they can spark new approaches and solutions.


The individual must sell his ideas to other people. The modern iconoclast navigates a dynamic social network and elicits change that begins with altered perception and ends with effecting change in other people (or dying a failure).

It is crucial for success in any field to understand how the iconoclast mind works.

Leaders need to develop an iconoclastic mind or to support the iconoclasts in their organizations.

Grow Your People, Grow Your Business!




Please click here to follow me on Twitter


Post a Comment