By Gregory Berns
Harvard Business School Press, 2008
I have always considered myself an iconoclast, and I have had trouble in organizations because sometimes my ideas, while right, were too hard for management to accept.
I hoped that this book would help people like me and those on the other side of the fence understand each other and the role iconoclasts play in helping companies thrive. Alas, this did not turn out to be the case.
The book examines innovators and shows how iconoclasts’ brains work differently, which is interesting; however, if I gave this book to some executives I have known, while they might get excited in theory about finding an outstanding person who has developed a new, revolutionary concept, they would still balk at having someone on staff who viewed things differently.
Nonetheless, I found the book very engaging. It reviewed the science of the brain and demonstrated how the iconoclast impulse has manifested itself in inventors and people known for their innovations. Berns used the bell-curve distribution of technology adoption to illustrate the vast chasm between iconoclasts and mainstream organizations. He likened iconoclasts to “innovators” or “early adopters,” while organizations tended to fall into the “late majority” or “laggard” categories. Because iconoclasts and organizations are at different ends of the adoption spectrum, they do not share sufficient common ground for them to understand each other.
It would have been nice to learn how organizations can use iconoclasts in ways that help companies succeed, and it would have been nice to receive practical advice on how to handle people who think differently. Some newer management books try to provide this, but I have found that those of us who see things in a different light are still treated as rebels and have a hard time fitting in at most organizations.