Leadership lessons from Burning Man and Chorus of Women

Thank you for the dialogue session with Janet and The Chorus of Women at the ANU Centre for Dialogue monthly gathering

At one part of the proceedings my small group had a short but wonderful conversation about creativity and emergence as what people can co-create in dialogue.

Here’s an example, others may be interested in, of a temporary community of 50,000 having a conversation like this

Burning Man is a great experiment in leading social change. This could also be described as Transforming, Business, Society and Self – Building Collective Capacity for Deep Innovation. Many of us are looking for ways to bring this work alive in our communities.People want to be inspired, not lectured. They tend to respond better to humor and gentle reminders than they do to dictates or presumptions of guilt before innocence.

So how does Burning Man get people to create such marvels? Not by command and control. The organization simply sets a few guidelines, mainly for safety purposes, and then gives attendees permission to let their imaginations run wild.

Trust people and they will usually live up to that trust. Give people creative freedom, and they will surprise you with what they deliver. And indeed, it is common sense. And yet many organizations nevertheless fall down on one or more of these principles–structuring rules and regulations around a presumption of guilt on the part of employees, rather than treating them as trusted members of a community, or by offering only money rather than latitude in the effort to drum up creativity.


Here’s the 10 fantastic principles of Burning Man


How could you use ideas like this in your work in the world?

The Ten Principles are:
Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

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