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Organizational Lessons from Burning Man – Spreading Memes

Chatting with some friends who have been going to Burning Man for years, we marveled at how, even with it’s astonishing growth, the event has been able to retain it’s essence year after year. It’s remarkable that, while the experience necessarily changed (25,000 people is just too different from 250), the spirit, and what draws people to it, has stuck around. Yes a few jaded folks dismiss the more recent instantiations, but that’s little more than old-timers pining for long-lost glory days.

Anyway, in our discussions, it became clear that, among the things it has done very right, Burning Man has a small set of core principles that are easy to communicate:

– No spectators
– No commerce
– Leave no trace
(there are probably others, these are what sprung to mind).

Such simple and clear memes are easy to spread, and won’t mutate. Additionally, they’re pithy, unambiguous, and directive. They thus support dissemination to a wide audience, and can effectively prepare first-timers for what is expected of them. Any growing organization can learn from this example.