Burning Man, a platform for innovation
By Anthony Atiyeh
I went to Burning Man for the second time this year. Founded in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco, the festival since moved to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada in the ephemeral Black Rock City (BRC) that “welcomes home” nearly 70,000 “citizens” annually. The festival is based on 10 fundamental principles that form the backbone of this event. These include radical self-expression, radical self-reliance, civic responsibility and leave no trace amongst others. These principles create a unique environment of total openness, freedom, and creativity which transforms Burning Man into an incubator of ideas. In addition, the core of the event is focused on the experience in the present moment and the journey of each individual. This is why people come year after year.
This setting is resulting in a strong influence on the start-up culture in Silicon Valley. The effervescence of altruism and creativity at Burning Man serve as a hotbed for technology and innovation. Many even claim that one of the main reasons why Silicon Valley exists today and why innovation is happening there more than anywhere else in the world is because of the influence of Burning Man. Burning Man is where problem solving and experiments take place. It’s a laboratory of spontaneous innovation, creativity that challenges the status quo. The Black Rock City census actually shows that the computer and technology industries are by far the most predominant amongst participant’s professions. It’s no surprise that Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk were regulars at the event. Several radical ideas came from their visits to Burning Man like Elon Musk’s SolarCity.
We can clearly notice that Burning Man is a platform for innovation, gathering all the elements and talents into an interconnected ecosystem that generates ideas, content and data that can then be shared to the rest of the world. In this age of digital technology and rapid communications, where organizations are becoming ever more siloed, Burning Man is a much needed environment to think outside the box, challenge boundaries and innovate with a focus on ultimate goals to improve human advancement.
Conversation about the future are constantly brewing there, one of the topics addressed there that caught my eye this year was the smart sustainable city. More precisely how to fully integrate the technology in the skeleton of a city to create a whole intelligent ecosystem that would optimize efficiency and be fully sustainable. An agile city that would “leave no trace”, that would produce zero waste, but instead reuse, transform and redirect resources to be repurposed instead. It would gather huge amount of data from digital touch points around the city and redirect services and green energy where needed. From my perspective with working with INM, adopting and implementing new technologies is all about a will to change, to get out of your comfort zone, an openness to experiment and a thirst for innovation. I believe in the openness of digital engagement platforms that benefit an entire ecosystem like a sustainable city, rather than favoring just a few players. Knowing your audience and understanding that customer experience is at the core of every business will make people come back to experience this pleasant and unique journey again and again. It’s by placing the building blocks, the fundamental principles of a digital engagement platform that enterprises and communities can fully unlock the true potential of their ecosystem, maximize the benefit of the ideas and data generated by its users and optimize its resources like in the middle of the desert at Burning Man.