The Icarus Deception and Seth Godin

This week, Seth Godin made a rare appearance in the UK and I was lucky enough to bag myself a ticket. I’ve been a huge fan of Seth’s since reading his book ‘Purple Cow’ 4 or 5 years ago and applying many of the principles within it to my own business. Since then I’ve read a number of his books including Lynchpin and most recently, The Icarus Deception, the book this event was based on.

Seth has inspired me for a number of years so I was keen to see him live. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Icarus Deception deals with the fact that we are living in a revolution and that most people are struggling to see it. We are moving from an Industrial Economy (think big brands, big spends, loud marketing noise) where everything revolves around greater efficiency, cheaper products and where people are pushed to be average, to what Seth terms the Connection Economy where the connections you make and the opportunities you take to create ‘Art’ will be the most important element to your success in the future. The problem is, not enough people create art.

So what is art? Art is something new. Art is being different. Art is something you made before others. Art is something you probably tried to create time and time again, not being afraid to fail along the way. Are you making art?

A particular theme that interested me is that as we grow up we’re taught not to make art. Schools are there to teach us to stand in straight lines, to conform, not to speak up but to go through the system – junior school, high school, university, job. When are we told its ok to make a ruckus? I certainly can’t remember being given that instruction. The title of the book, the Icarus Deception refers to the Greek myth about Icarus who was taught, while attempting to escape from Crete, not to fly too close to the sun or his wings would burn and he’d fall into the sea. Of lesser mention is the fact he was also taught not to fly to close to the sea or the mist from the water would make his wings too heavy and the same fate would occur. Where are we teaching future generations to fly? Higher than ever or within their comfort zones, where its nice and safe?

A fascinating story using the company Lego was used as means of an example. Allegedly they were suffering grave problems back in the 80’s/90’s, as they stuck to their belief that every product they made should be able to be used for at least two different things. We were told the company was almost bought to its knees until one of its team came up with the idea of selling lego model kits that children (and I’m sure a few adults) could put together themselves. The company was saved and why? Because kids want to follow instructions, to make something perfectly, NOT to make art, NOT to stand up with something new and different and say, “I made this”

So what does it take to make art then? It takes the willingness to fail, over and over again (something I wrote about here). It takes grit and determination. It takes the need to overcome your ‘lizard brain’ and when others say you can’t do it, to carry on. It takes the ability to dance with fear (a favourite phrase of mine) and be ok with ‘this might not work’.

The Icarus Deception is a fascinating book and one that I’m excited about sharing. I for one embrace the connection economy. Am I creating art? Maybe not enough, but I intend to challenge myself with this question on a regular basis.

Are you creating art? If so, please share it with us, after all, an important part of this economy is to be able to stand up and say, ‘I made this’, whatever others say.



  1. Guest on 20th January 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Have a watch of this, it’s a great video on the ups and downs Lego had.

  2. […] can be seen at the TED blog, Economic Times, HuffPoBooks, FastCompany, Tom Catalini’s blog, IamBanksy, BrandChannel, (an outlier at) Nurturing Creativity, to name just a […]

  3. marcforte on 28th January 2013 at 12:11 pm

    I think his analysis of the myth is missing something. The point is that they were *already* flying! They were already doing something amazing, and daring, and completely out of the usual limits of their culture; all they needed to pull it off was to stay in touch with reality. Icarus’s dad Deadulus (who was the guy who took who took the creative step of having the plan and making the wings in the first place) landed safely.

    Icarus is not a myth about not taking risks and thinking outside of the box, but about the danger of *ungrounded* risks — it’s about the need to keep some kind of connection to earth even as you soar upwards.

    Which is *exactly* a lesson out culture needs to learn. We soar all over the place, we have TED, and the internet and ‘connected culture’, and inspirational books, yet we seem, on the whole, to be chronically unable to ground this in the real world in a truly powerful way. There’s all this flighty, inspirational stuff around, yet in spite of it the environment continues to deteriorate, the few continue to control the many, and inter-cultural distrust and antagonism seems, overall, to be increasing in the world.

    The myth is making a vital point about the need for descent as well as ascent; it’s about not throwing the ‘bathtub’ of maturity out with the ‘bath’ of creative repression. It’s a myth in favour of *mature* creativity. Which is a lesson our culture badly needs.

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