Which is Stronger: Urge to Conform or Urge to be a Snowflake?

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Gregory Berns has a new book out from Harvard Business Press called “Iconclast: A neurosurgeon reveals how to think differently" and the abstract reads:

“No organization can survive without iconoclasts — innovators who single-handedly upturn conventional wisdom and manage to achieve what so many others deem impossible. Though indispensable, true iconoclasts are few and far between. In Iconoclast, neuroscientist Gregory Berns explains why. He explores the constraints the human brain places on innovative thinking, including fear of failure, the urge to conform, and the tendency to interpret sensory information in familiar ways. Through vivid accounts of successful innovators ranging from glass artist Dale Chihuly to physicist Richard Feynman to country/rock trio the Dixie Chicks, Berns reveals the inner workings of the iconoclast’s mind with remarkable clarity. “

So this has me pondering the question I put in the title, is our urge to blend in, be “normal”, conform, etc. stronger than our urge to be different, unique and snowflakes?  For me I’ve always felt that being called “normal” is about the biggest insult I can imagine.  Fortunately for me I’ve never been so insulted! <g>

Worthy of more pondering and some good fodder for this week’s TWIST (This Week in Snowflake Talk) with Erik and I perhaps?

Which one wins the tug of war with you more often:  the urge to conform or to be a Snowflake?

Worth Your While

As I was pondering this I came across this recent blog post on Brain Based Biz called Your Brain’s Lazy – Jolt It! by Robyn McMaster.  She also references Berns’ Iconoclast book and wanted to pass it on to you as being well worth your time to read.  Robyn notes about Iconoclast:

“Good news is that you too, have potential to be an inventor! "In order to think creatively," according to Gregory Berns, who recently published, Iconoclast, "you must develop new neural pathways and break out of the cycle of experience-dependent categorization." He adds, you can jolt your brain to energize new feats by surprising it with new information or an unfamiliar environment.”

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2 Responses to “Which is Stronger: Urge to Conform or Urge to be a Snowflake?”

  1. madhollywood Says:

    Conformity is an odd thing and I think most people are insulted if they are described as “normal.” Still, I wonder whether a “norm” of sorts is essential for an effective organization of society. Indeed, it is the iconoclast who upturns the conventional wisdom and by their efforts reorganize the concept of normal, but isn’t it important that people follow such innovation at some point? Maybe it is a necessary evil to conform?

    Still, I prefer to be the unique snowflake myself.

  2. Snowfalkayne Says:

    Thanks for the comment and making this point. Norms do indeed serve a purpose and without a norm there is no abnormal!

    I think that norms are of value as points of reference. People can choose to be as close or as far away from such norms as they wish. In practice it is worth noting that there is rarely any steady state that any of us maintain and so it is perhaps a question of how far, how long and in what direction one “deviates” from the norm. If you were to plot this out on a 2 axis graph our behaviors and actions would create very unique undulating patterns similar for example to sound on an oscilloscope (or stock prices of late!) and just a question of how far and how fast the trace goes up and down.

    I also have a theory that the maximum point on each side of our individual charts has to be equal. In other words if there is a horizontal line that represents zero or the norm, then there is a scale going up, let’s say in the positive direction and one going down in the negative direction and I’m of the belief that you can only experience as much positive as you have negative and vice versa. But this is another topic for another day and thread.

    My concern and question is more on that of conformance and the degree to which anyone purposely tries to stay as close to some straight line of “normality”.

    Vive la différence pour moi s’il vous plait!

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