Entrepreneurs, innovation and Burning Man. Connecting the dots.

By Grant Hall

In her article for Entrepreneur Asia Pacific titled Radical Inclusion: How Burning Man is Helping Create a New Breed of Entrepreneur, Cynthia Johnson explained how “entrepreneurs and others are taking what they learn at Burning Man and applying it to other situations”, before proposing that Burning Man is potentially creating a more “inclusive, community-building” kind of entrepreneur. As explained on the Burning Man website, “members of our community were early pioneers of the Internet and more and more technology entrepreneurs and industry leaders are joining our ranks as Burning Man culture spreads around the world”. Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Tony Hsieh, Mark Zuckerberg, Alexis Ohanian, Jeff Bezos, Drew Houston and Elon Musk (who is quoted as saying “Burning Man is Silicon Valley”) are among some of the more well-known entrepreneurs who have attended Burning Man. There are many articles written by entrepreneurs who discuss how their Burning Man experience has contributed to their professional aims, and conversations I’ve had with burners indicate that the Burning Man experience is characteristically a transformational and boundary expanding one, which can subsequently support the creative and innovative capacities of entrepreneurs.

I find it intriguing that a festival can act as a fertile ground for innovation and as such, I want to find out how and why this is so.

To do this, I’ve embarked on a research journey, and I’m inviting burners who work in innovation intensive roles or industries to contribute to the research. If this is you, and you are interested in being interviewed about your experience, please help me out by clicking here to complete a short survey (it will only take you two or three minutes). With your help, I hope to be able to trace the ripple effects of Burning Man within the default business world, and subsequently across the planet!

To learn more about the research project, click here.

Image credit is listed on the next page.

survey callout

subscribe today

Burning Man and innovation; what are the links?

By Grant Hall

Burning Man and innovation are often mentioned in the same breath.

In an article for The Conversation titled Why Burning Man is Silicon ValleySimon Willmetts wrote that world leading innovators attend and are often regulars at Burning Man. Apparently, Google’s founders chose their CEO ‘because he was the only candidate for the job who had been a burner’, and Elon Musk is reported as saying that “Burning Man is Silicon Valley”. I recently read an academic journal article which explained how within innovation intensive professional communities, in places like San Francisco and New York City, going to Burning Man is sometimes viewed as a ‘sanctioned form of professional development’, which ‘often appears on resumes’. But it’s not just the famous ones who are illuminating the links between Burning Man and innovation. Architects and other innovators use Burning Man as a testing ground for their innovations, and there are many blog posts written by burners who discuss how their Burning Man experience has supported their own innovation processes. Conversations that I’ve had with burners seem to indicate that the Burning Man experience can be a transformational and boundary expanding one,  which subsequently supports the creative and innovative capacities of individuals.

I find it intriguing that a festival can act as a fertile ground for innovation and as such, I want to find out how and why this is so.

To do this, I’m embarking on a research journey, and inviting burners who work in innovation intensive roles or industries to contribute to my research. If this is you, please help me out by clicking here to complete a short survey (it will only take you two or three minutes). With your help, I hope to be able to trace the ripple effects of Burning Man within the default business world, and subsequently across the planet!

To learn more about the research project, click here.

Image credit is listed on the next page.

survey callout

subscribe today

Erica Blair joins the Arts, Festivals and Innovation team

Erica Blair

Erica Blair

Erica Blair has joined the Arts, Festivals & Innovation project as an ‘Industry Adviser’, where she will help the team to find out more about the links between transformational festivals and innovation.

Erica is a Consultant and Adviser to tech founders and blockchain projects. She decided to found her own branding consultancy whilst at Burning Man in 2014, a business she continues to manage today. She has also attended and worked at numerous festivals around the world.

Links:

www.ericablair.io
www.linkedin.com/in/ericablairlive

This research project investigates how transformational festivals, such as Burning Man (USA) or Boom (Portugal), support innovation processes. The project will be informed by surveying and interviewing people who have attended one or more transformational festivals. If you would like to do the survey, click here.

To stay up-to-date with news and information about the project, please subscribe to the project’s blog by entering your details in the box towards the bottom of your screen, or by joining in the conversation in the Facebook group, Culture for business, governments and life.

survey callout

subscribe today

 

 

Exploring festivals and innovation. New Industry Adviser: Thomas Hajdu

Thomas Hajdu has joined the Arts, Festivals & Innovation project as an ‘Industry Adviser’, where he will help the team to find out more about the links between transformational festivals and innovation.

Tom’s career connects leadership, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Tom is CEO of Disrupter, his US-based innovation company. Over several years, this company has developed a way to create deeper and more creative strategic technologies. This year Disrupter is launching uNET, a next generation network company.

Tom is Professor and Chair of Creative Technologies at the University of Adelaide where he is Director of the Sia Furler Institute advocating innovation and entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Arts.

He received a Distinguished Talent Visa from the Australian Federal Government and in his first 18 months as a resident, Tom led a key initiative that was adopted by the South Australian Government, which saw Adelaide become Australia’s first gigabit city. The South Australian Government appointed Tom to the role of Chief Innovator of South Australia from 2017 to 2018.

Tom co-founded tomandandy, in 1990, reshaping the role of music in film, television and advertising industries by introducing a new process that lowered music production costs to a fraction of previous levels while improving creative quality. Over the next decade, tomandandy became one of the largest music production companies in the world. He has collaborated with Oliver Stone, U2 and Lou Reed to name a few, he has worked with top brands such as Microsoft and Ford, as well as in film and TV Studios and best of breed advertising agencies worldwide.

Tom has sat on award juries and has spoken, chaired or given keynote speeches at the original TED Conference, CalTech/MIT Forum, DisruptSydney, Pepperdine University’s first Disruption Conference as well as several universities worldwide about strategic innovation and is a member of Sydney University’s Digital Disruption Research Group.

He received a PhD and MFA degree from Princeton University and Presidential MBA from Pepperdine University.

Links: Tom’s profile on LinkedIn.

This research project investigates how transformational festivals, such as Burning Man (USA) or Boom (Portugal), support innovation processes. The project will be informed by surveying and interviewing people who have attended one or more transformational festivals. If you would like to do the survey, click here.

To stay up-to-date with news and information about the project, please subscribe to the project’s blog by entering your details in the box towards the bottom of your screen, or by joining in the conversation in the Facebook group, Culture for business, governments and life.

survey callout

subscribe today

 

Burning Questions. Why I’m researching festivals and innovation.

family at womad

By Grant Hall

Regular readers of my blog (www.wherewordsfailblog.com) will know that I have an obsession with the power of culture and the arts to bring about positive change in individuals, organisations and communities. I’ve written about how engagement in arts activities can contribute to mental health, about how music performances can aid international diplomacy efforts, and of how sport and arts activities can help to build more peaceful communities – as just a few examples. This obsession, which has become my life’s work through League Cultural Diplomacy, has led me to undertake a research project exploring how festivals can contribute to innovation.

Many cities and states around the world, such as my home city of Adelaide in South Australia, are implementing innovation centred strategies and initiatives designed to emulate the economic success of Silicon Valley. Whilst the merits in doing so can be debated, anyone who has read much about Silicon Valley would appreciate that the vibrant arts scene in San Francisco and the Burning Man festival (held in Nevada since 1990 but heavily attended by Silicon Valley workers), are crucial to Silicon Valley’s innovative culture. Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, for example, discusses the influence of the arts on Jobs’ innovative capacities and his interactions with the San Francisco arts scene, whilst Elon Musk is reported as saying that ‘Burning Man is Silicon Valley’. Yet despite the importance of the arts and culture to Silicon Valley in regard to building an innovation economy, the role of culture and the arts in developing an innovative economy is not always acknowledged by governments seeking to emulate some of Silicon Valley’s success, apart from notions around using arts and cultural activities to attract the so-called ‘creative class’.

Many Burners besides Elon Musk have discussed how their Burning Man experience has positively impacted on their creativity and innovative capacities. What’s the link? How does going to a festival help someone become more innovative? How does it benefit the companies they work for, or their governments which seek to capitalise on an innovation based economies? It’s these burning questions that I’m trying to answer through my research project.

The topic of my research project is How do transformational festivals support innovation processes? Transformational festivals are an emerging type of festival which have been described as ‘counterculture events, alluding both personal and cultural transformation through self-realization and an ethos of sustainability, sharing, co-creation, creative expression and community-building’ [1]. Typically, transformational festivals involve camping in a remote natural location, often for up to a week[2]. Artistically, they provide an environment where ‘varied forms of expression can flourish’[3], and characteristically feature ‘a bewildering variety of animated and inanimate creations’[4], ‘dazzling light shows and spectacular installation art’[5] along with ceremonies and rituals[6]. Whilst Burning Man, which attracts some 70,000 attendees each year, is regarded as the ‘prototypical’ transformational festival, numerous others take place each year around the world, such as Boom in Portugal and Rainbow Serpent in Australia. I’ve chosen to focus my research on transformational festivals, because when online discussions occur about the links between festivals and innovation, it seems there is something about transformational festivals, and Burning Man in particular, that make them especially conducive to supporting the creative and innovative capacities of individuals. I want to find out why this is so, and I intend to do so by surveying and interviewing people who have attended one or more transformational festivals.

I hope that what the research project reveals will be useful for festival organisers, innovative companies and governments around the world. For festival organisers, the research will shed some light on the links between festivals and innovation. For innovative companies, the research it’s likely to provide details about the benefits they might obtain when employees attend festivals. For governments, it will reveal more about the role that festivals can play within the development of innovation systems within a state and increasing overall productivity.

Perhaps most importantly, I hope that the information gleaned from the research will help people who are actively seeking to develop their creativity and innovative capacities.

I’m undertaking this research project as part of a Masters by Research program at the University of South Australia, and I’m supported by a great team. Further support has been provided through scholarships awarded by my university and the Australian Commonwealth Government who granted me a Research Training Program Scholarship. This website has been established to support the project and invite discussions about innovation and festivals.

I’m really excited about this project and I hope you’ll join me on the journey by visiting the webpage, subscribing to the blog, commenting on the blog posts, or keeping up with progress through my Facebook group, Culture for business, governments and life. If you’re aged 20 or older and have attended at least one transformational festival, please come and take a short survey, or if you have any friends or colleagues who fit the bill, please share the survey with them.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the links between festivals and innovation? What are your experiences? Have you attended Burning Man or any other transformational festivals? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Endnotes, sources and photo credits are listed on the next page.

survey callout

subscribe today

Have you experienced a transformational festival such as Burning Man or Boom? We want to hear from you!

family at womad

By Grant Hall

Transformational festivals are changing the lives of individuals, and influencing society in a broad range of ways, including environmental consciousness, social organisation, and the way people create things or do business.

Transformational festivals are ‘counterculture events, alluding both personal and cultural transformation through self-realization and an ethos of sustainability, sharing, co-creation, creative expression and community-building’[1]. Festivals which have been categorised as transformational festivals include Burning Man (USA), Boom (Portugal) and Rainbow Serpent (Australia).

As a worker in the events, arts, cultural and festivals sectors, I have long been interested in how arts and cultural initiatives, such as festivals, can bring about positive change within individuals, communities and organisations. One thing I have found very interesting in my reading about festivals, is how many people, including some world leading innovators, have discussed how their transformational festival experience has had an impact on their working-life innovation processes.

My interest in this topic has developed into a research project, which will allow me to learn more about how transformational festivals support innovation processes, and subsequently share this information with others. You can click here to read more about my motivations for starting this project.

This research project will be informed by surveying and interviewing people who have attended one or more transformational festivals. As such, I am putting a call out for people (20 years of age or older), who have attended at least one transformational festival, to complete a short survey. Subsequently, I will also be inviting some survey participants to be interviewed about their transformational festival experience.

To do the survey, click here

The terms and conditions for the survey can be accessed here, and you can read more about the research project by clicking here.

Do you have any thoughts on the links between innovation and transformational festivals? What are your experiences? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Do you have any friends who have attended a transformational festival, such as Burning Man or Boom? If so, please share this call-out with them – the project team and I would love to hear from them.

To stay up-to-date with news and information about the project, please subscribe to the project’s blog by entering your details in the box towards the bottom of your screen, or by joining in the conversation in my Facebook group, Culture for business, governments and life.

survey callout

subscribe today

Endnotes, sources and photo credits are listed on the next page.