According to the free dictionary, an iconoclast
is someone who attacks established or traditional concepts, principles, ideas and laws; someone who breaks down a belief and then re-invents it. These are people who do things that other people say can’t be done. They are more than just leaders; they are innovators who create revolutionary movements.
As our society becomes more commoditized and the marketplace more saturated, it is imperative that we, as marketers, start understanding iconoclastic qualities and applying them to our principles and practices. We need to start thinking differently about the products and services we represent. We need to not be intimidated to go about things differently if we are going to impact the market. In Gregory Berns’ book “Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently,” Berns identifies three distinct brain functions that set iconoclasts apart from the average person:
- Fear Response
- Social Intelligence
So what exactly does this mean? Steve Jobs was one of the most influential iconoclasts of our time. He successfully broke perception, overcame fear and used social intelligence to revolutionize how we obtain, listen to and share music. Let’s take a look.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at start to change.”
– Wayne Dyer
Our brains tend to take a physical property and associate it with a previous experience to form a perception. Iconoclasts see the same physical property, however they perceive it in a different way. For example, a little more than a decade ago when you thought of music you thought concert, radio, CD or MP3 player because that is what you knew. You didn’t question it; these were the options. Jobs thought differently. He believed there was a different way in which we could experience and share music, and in 2001 the first iPod was introduced. Jobs didn’t settle for what existed or what he knew. He saw novelty and an opportunity to improve.
"There are no failures - just experiences and reaction to them."
– Toon Krause
When our perception is broken and we have a new thought, we almost immediately have a “fear response” that prevents action. We are afraid of the unknown and of being ridiculed or criticized by others. Iconoclasts view new thoughts as opportunities to take action, be proactive and create positive change. When the iPod was released, it had its fans and its critics. Both groups’ experience with the device led to the evolution of the product and line extensions.
“He who influences the thought of his times influences the times that follow.”
– Elbert Hubbard
One of the biggest challenges of having a new perspective is fueling change and progress in others. Iconoclasts need to help non-iconoclasts overcome their “fear response” and bring new ways of thinking to old patterns. Iconoclasts typically have a high propensity for understanding others, creating and maintaining a positive reputation, and creating a sense of familiarity with their idea. Jobs approached music (and many other things) differently, which led to well-designed, easy-to-use products. He shifted the perception and revolutionized how we experience music.
As marketers, we owe it to our clients to embrace the qualities Jobs displayed and learn to become more iconoclastic. We need to break the habit of “automatic thinking” and start changing our customers’ perceptions.
Only after we are no longer intimidated to share new ideas will we understand that it’s our thoughts that will create positive change. And that’s something even the most revolutionary iconoclast can get behind.
About the author::
Heather Driggs is an account manager at thunder::tech and when she isn’t strategizing new ways to exceed her clients’ expectations, she is most likely hanging with her family or her dog, indulging in the CLE culinary scene, heading to a concert or jet-setting off for a long weekend with her hubby.