Genius thought-leader and marketing guru, Seth Godin’s book The Icarus Deception is a work of art. It just so happens that the book itself talks about art – namely, the art of business. The entire work is a bow to the Greek myth of Icarus, the boy with wings built by his craftsman father who flew a little too close to the sun. However, much like Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, Godin offers a unique new perspective to this classic tale. For marketers, he offers a golden lesson, one that calls upon us to be artists and take risks – but really what he’s saying is a whole lot more powerful than just that.

Godin starts off by introducing, to those still thinking in primitive 20th century terms, a brief breakdown of the old rules vs. the new rules. Last century’s rules (and really the reason why most people are so quickly fossilized in this economy) have to do with embracing a cookie-cutter career path that encourages climbing the ladder (which, in my opinion, is little more than lateral thinking rather than thinking as an ecosystem).

The new rules are about creating connections; it’s about being an artist. For Godin, our new economy rewards those who accept the new business model. It’s an economy that rewards artists (think Steve Jobs whose art was essentially design), and punishes compliance (think of every single business that no longer matters anymore).

The chapters impress upon us, repeatedly, that art is about attitude. If you had to give someone an equation for art, you’d say it’s: vision + guts. That vision means you’re an original thinker because “…an artist is someone who does something for the first time, something human, something that [connects]” (63). Godin also makes it a point to relate that as an artist, we don’t necessarily need to be perfect in our craft, writing that “you have no idea what you’re doing. If you did, you’d be an expert, not an artist.” There’s something very organic about that differentiation.

Opinion: An expert is, if we think about it for a minute, someone who sticks to the book. An expert is a regurgitator – and not an original thinker.

Getting to the part where you start to become an original thinker isn’t as hard as it might seem. For one, you don’t need to be born with a ‘genius gene’. Godin believes our minds can be trained to think originally, and really all his books are a piece of the puzzle to get you there. In The Icarus Deception, he gives us three concrete steps to understanding art:

    1. Learn to see: Godin uses a key word…labels. And he tells us to get rid of them.

      Opinion: labels are what other people say things are, i.e. This is that, that is this. They’re barriers to creative thought and pure inspired thought. So step one is to ditch the labels.

    2. Learn to Make: This step is about creation, about taking what you see and reflecting it back to the world.

      Opinion: It’s not about cloning a copy of someone else’s idea. Rather, it’s about interpreting your world and then mirroring it back out. What you get, then, are two reflections of the same thing. Two ways to see the same thing. With more artists, you have more versions of a thing. This, at least in my opinion, is how art interacts with art and how deeper thought networks are cultivated.

    3. Creating a Blank Slate: The emphasis here in on creating something original, because “art must be done for the first time, not repeated,” (144).

      Opinion: Art that copies isn’t art, it’s an imitation. In business, you need to look at how your business philosophy, your approach, your service, and your brand take on this lesson. Is it an imitation or are your brand, your message, and your approach a form of art? How do you take what you see in the world and throw it back out with your personal signature on it?