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Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  742 ratings  ·  77 reviews
What makes iconoclasts so astoundingly creative and successful? They overcome mental barriers that stop most of us cold. The brain has three natural roadblocks that stand in the way of truly innovative thinking: flawed perception, fear of failure, and the inability to persuade others. But, like an iconoclast, you can break through these barriers. Leading neuroscientist Gre ...more
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published 2008 by Harvard Business Press
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  742 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book was disappointing. There were definitely good elements, but it starts off poorly and — crucially — never quite figured out what it was about.

The first problem regards the title:
i·con·o·clast (ī-kŏn'ə-klăst')
   1. One who attacks and seeks to overthrow
     traditional or popular ideas or institutions.
   2. One who destroys sacred religious images.
Neither of those two definitions jibes with how Berns uses the word.

Right there on the cover, the author provides the definition as "A pers
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing

I was already somewhat familiar with several of the exemplars discussed in this book but not with others. They include Solomon Asch, Warren Buffett, Nolan Bushnell, Dale Chihuly, Ray Croc, Walt Disney, David Dreman, Richard Feynman, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Lauterbur, Jim Lavoi, Stanley Milgram, Florence Nightingale, Branch Rickey, Burt Rutan, and Jonas Salk. According to Berns, these iconoclasts possess a brain that differs from other people's in three functions (i.
Nov 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"Iconoclast" is that true rarity: a book I start recommending to friends before I have even finished reading it.

Berns uses his background in neuroscience to first show the physiological differences in brain structure between iconoclasts (original thinkers, if you will) and those who tend to "go with the crowd." Citations include controlled studies, MRI data, etc. Once he demonstrates the differences, he share examples of iconoclastic thought in everything from hamburgers to aerospace.

The main fo
Jayson Orvis
May 01, 2010 rated it liked it
About half this book is anecdote and the other half is scientific study. The author tries to bridge the gap between the world of a neurologist and the world of a businessman. He succeeds to a large degree, which is impressive. Still, there's a lot of science one must wade through to "get it" about Iconoclast. In the end, if you're into psychology and what makes a person think original thoughts, this book scores high marks. If you're looking to "up" your own originality, the author tries to coach ...more
Sep 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
An exploration on what the author's belief on what makes an iconoclast, a person who makes significant paradigm shifting changes in culture and technology. While the science is fascinating, mostly centering around fear studies, as well as cultural information transfer experiments and perception theories of the brain, the author's choice of iconoclasts is often shallow and uninspiring. Many of his examples could easily be described as sociopathic or narcissistic opportunists, as well as iconoclas ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good book - worth reading
Too long in my opinion - Could have easily been half the pages.
Interesting last chapter - enhancing iconoclastic traits through careful use of chemical supplements.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Easy-to-read book from a neuroscientist that argues how people can think differently and help their brains overcome our natural and learned behaviors that prevent innovation. The book includes many accessible case studies and examples from business and popular culture. Berns argues that to think differently we have to overcome 3 mental barriers: perception, courage and social skills. The arguments here show us how to avoid some of the pitfalls we might find. PS - There's also a great Appendix th ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
A curious book that ultimately feels cobbled together from several different perspectives. The basic idea, that iconoclasts who change the world have to succeed on three fronts, is good stuff and incontrovertible. They have to see things differently, overcome the fear of changing things, and have the social intelligence to make others come along to their way of seeing. But after that, there's a long section on the space flight program and race, and another long section on mind-altering drugs tha ...more
Matty Esco
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Interesting concepts presented in the most boring fashion possible, by a neuroscientist who is trying, for some reason, to communicate with Wall Street in the literary equivalent of Morse code. It reads like a business pitch, complete with a cringe-inducing tendency to ride the term "Iconoclast" like a boardroom buzzword.

The take-home is that iconoclasts are like geniuses, only not that smart.

Skip it.
Adam Edwards
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: innovation
Great book on how to think differently. In essence, our brain has equivalent energy of a 60 watt bulb. We create mental habits and take shortcuts to conserve energy. The only way break out of this is by creating new stimulus through new experiences, interactions, etc. New ideas typically come as a result of our bringing together two different ideas. There....I just saved you 300 pages of reading!
Nov 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting information presented in an accessible way. The business angle (i.e., the mini business case studies) seem forced.
Steven Felicelli
Mar 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
anecdotal evidence of a "new" theory, which was actually posited by Russian Formalists (Eccentrism, ostranenie) a century ago
Robin Green
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting read. It was written a little while ago, but the information is still current enough. It took a while to get used to the author's writing style and I'm not sure how much I'll honestly be able to use what I read in this book. There were a few sections though that made it worth the effort to get through this book. I wouldn't bother picking this one up unless you have a specific interest in the topic. I found it underwhelming.
Bianca Roxana
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Menirea cărții este de a provoca și toate exemplele oferite pot deveni impulsuri pentru a schimba ceva la noi. Cartea trebuie citită diferit de restul cărților și trebuie înțeleasă dincolo de analiza sa foarte bine realizată și documentată. Cartea poate să inspire și să schimbe atât cât fiecare permite sau își dorește.
Nicholas Joyce
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not what I was expecting. Dull at times. Had a hard time keeping my interest.
Ken MacClune
It's been a while since I read it but as I recall I enjoyed it.
Luís M Inácio
Sep 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Livro interessante este Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, de Gregory Berns, investigador no campo da neuroeconomia, em que o autor utiliza as investigações na neurociência para explicar o comportamento daquilo a que ele chama de pessoas iconoclastas. Ora, um iconoclasta, para o autor, é uma pessoa que faz coisas que outros dizem que não podem ser feitas, por outras palavras, alguém que por algum motivo consegue inovar nalgum campo da actividade humana, nomeadamente, ...more
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book provided some really interesting insights into how the brain works, and what _can_ differentiate the brain of an iconoclast from mere mortals. To be sure, this is less of a "how to" book than an explanation with some science to back it up, though you can certainly glean some useful suggestions and principles on how an individual or group can attempt to be aware of, occasionally break away from, or maybe even counteract the automatic groupthink that we've evolved to use as a practical s ...more
Aug 17, 2012 rated it did not like it
Berns position is that an iconoclast sees things differently from the rest of human nature, controls his fear of failure and fear of the unknown, and has enough social savvy to sell his idea to the world. Interesting enough and the discussions of specific iconoclasts was interesting with two notable exceptions- the chapter on financial wizards and the ever so boring chapter on commercial space travel. There were a couple of real tick offs- one where Berns maintains that after the accumulation of ...more
Apr 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book...and there were some parts I enjoyed. But Berns was still too heavy on the medical jargon. I've done medical/tech writing, I get that it's hard to explain this stuff without resorting to all the scientific terms. Maybe if there were more illustrations and diagrams I would feel differently. Most of the time I felt as if I was reading a textbook.

What really pissed me off, though, was getting to the Appendix and finding a rundown of drugs. What the hell does this have to
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found a copy of this book at a local Half-Price Books Store. I can't believe I got it on the cheap, being such a good book. A very important advantage of this book is that it was written by a neuroscientist and not another journalist with some knowledge of the subject. The book deals with iconoclasm and iconoclasts, how to recognize iconoclasts among us and what they're contributing to society at large.

I consider myself an iconoclast, but the name was only a feeble opinion that I kept to mysel
Lou Fillari
I thought this book would tell me how I could have different thoughts than the ones I currently have in my head. The general idea of that is there, but it's primary concern is how to overcome what might be holding back one's next great business venture and the three steps one must travail to appear like a competent entrepreneur to potential customers.

The review blurb on the cover does state that this book is one of the best business books of 2008. I didn't read the blurb on the cover before I p
Aug 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was heavy reading but very interesting theory. I had trouble finding common ground in the Iconoclastic thinkers that Berns discusses. There is not one profile of an Iconoclastic thinker. There are some who have the characteristics he decides are right for the profile but they are lacking in this or that. Not enough charisma to see their idea through, no selling power. So how does that make them any different than the rest of us with ideas? Not sure. I found parts of the book to become vague a ...more
Alex Railean
I originally wanted to give it 3 stars instead of 4, but that is because I knew many things from it after being exposed to other literature. Without that past experience, I would definitely think of this book as a more valuable one.

The word "iconoclast" occurs waaaay to often, it feels like the author is trying to convert the reader into a new religion, or that he is selling something. However, this does not make the book less true.

Overall, I do not regret reading it and I enjoyed his examples a
Jerry Smith
Pretty interesting, written from the point of view of the biological aspects of iconoclasts. Ultimately I found this less compelling than the stories of various iconoclasts profiled, albeit briefly, in the text.

Some information as to the structures of the brain is fairly detailed as you would expect from a neuroscientist but easy to follow. Left me wondering if there was really anything you can do about the 3 things that make for iconoclasm - I guess you can face fear, perceive things in a diff
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-2009
I really enjoyed this book. This book reminds me of Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More, a book that I enjoyed not just because of the fascinating science and stories embedded in the book, but also, it's simple ability to re-motivate me when times were getting tough. While the book doesn't have the most in-depth science, it's not that the author doesn't understand the science or have knowledge of it, but rather has simplified it a lot. Still, this decision by the ...more
May 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Not a bad book per se, but I just had trouble getting into it. The way it's organized is very choppy and at some point the book seemed to ramble on when it should have ended. It took its three premises: being able to perceive differently, avoid fear, and appeal to the public and rambled on. Some parts were interesting, while others were poorly explained (we get a full break down on cell bio, but are expected to know what "g force" is in physics). Some of the iconoclast stories were intriguing, w ...more
May 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is very cool. Perception is everything. What makes a person an Iconoclast?

This book with scientifically breakdown how humans' see images with their eyes... (Think of a complex camera...) It will also breakdown what else weighs in on what we see; thus, our perception and outlook on life...

I recommend this book to everyone who questions anything. You just might be what they call, an Iconoclast... And that is a real life hero.

Caution: Do not attempt to jump over buildings in a single b
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009-book-list
Iconoclast is a really interesting book. The somewhat frustrating thing is that there is so much medical jargon that it was hard for a non-medical person like me to wade through it. However, it's still worth reading. An Iconoclast is a person who does things others say can't be done. They do this in 3 ways:
1. Possessing a perception system allowing them to see things differently.
2. Conquers fear of failure and the unknown.
3. Possessing social intelligence to sell their ideas to other people.

Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Some interesting commentary on the brain, difficult to make an practical application from the book, except that higher levels of oxytocin lower fear and anxiety issues, which in turn make it easier to have courage, correct misperception issues etc. How does one elevate Oxytocin levels? Drug or ... hugs. Hugging and cuddling raises Oxytocin levels. So the moral of this book is to watch the video year of the rat by badly drawn boy and hug more people.
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Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University and Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology.

* Ph.D. University of California, Davis, 1990
* M.D. University of California, San Diego, 1994
“The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in seeing with new eyes. —Marcel Proust” 0 likes
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