Greetings from the world’s largest MVP.
Every year, a city of 70,000 people emerges from nowhere for a week. And it vanishes again. They are delighted to be a part of it; welcomes from most humble of Innovation Lab locations:
Innovation Lab Nevada
3 & Explanade
Black Rock City, Nevada 89412
We do not recommend visiting between September 5 and August 25 – because our office staff, along with the entire city, is gone to what we call “decompression,” a 51-week-long period when the 70,000 citizens suffer “post-burn blues,” coping as best we can in what we call the “default world” to alleviate feelings of loneliness and separation from our beloved desert city.
A massive MVP
You are aware that this is not an ordinary location. It is much more spectacular underneath, which you will not know if you have not been here. Since the founders are passionate Burners, eager participants in the Black Rock City experiment, Eric Schmidt’s mere presence was a deciding factor in his hiring as Google CEO. Five years ago, you could ride self-driving vehicles here. And see dwarfs juggling pancakes at 7 a.m. as the most natural thing in the world. Some describe it as a journey inside a Dali painting, while others describe it as a lengthy and strange dream come true. Burners think the surrounding world is the dream and the Playa, the ancient beach or former sea bed that now provides the sandy basis for the Burn, is the only unveiled and true place. “Welcome home,” is the standard BRC greeting.
Burning Man is a huge MVP (Minimum Viable Product, for the non-techie). Burning Man is an experimental city, whose infrastructure – including streets and an electrical grid – is built in the desert out of nothing, every year for more than 25 years, and taken down leaving no trace. Burning Man is also an experimental economy, based on “gifting” where money or trade is not allowed, yet goods and services exchange hands without friction for the benefit of all. Burning Man is an experimental community with regulations that operate well together, based on ten principles that each member takes seriously.
Innovation Lab @ Burning Man
The inspiration we obtain from this gigantic MVP named Black Rock City is transformed into ideas and thoughts for innovation. Here are some of the highlights of creative stimulus this transformative spot on our planet has to offer to the rest of us this year:
Morphing skull – “C-FIVE” by Laberge, Prismaticamp
In the dark desert night, a projection mapping art installation greets you with a show of shifting colors, adornments, and effects. The ultimate sign of death has had essential importance for mankind, from Hamlet’s Yorick speech through Damien Hirst’s diamond studded reproductions. Death is being transformed into a pure and whimsical beauty that stuns you picture after image as it changes to the blasting sounds.
What more appropriate than to make a full size oak with thousands of LED leaves that change with the music and draw crowds to cuddle up or relax in the antishade of the soft colors against the dark velvet canopy if night. This gigantic village center seems to continue to attract thoughtful folks to its root foundation.
Live helium ballooned dancing light wire
The most magnificent Beach art is sometimes the most stunningly plain. A row of helium balloons set against a dawn, visible for miles around, has previously taken Burners by surprise. In 2017, what looks like a giant light snake lures playa people to its base at what must be the most simply yet effective piece of playa art yet. The allured mob then shakes the LED infested tail base and the effect ripples upwards, causing the ligth wire to dance like a hip swinging sick figure to the pounding beats of general playa blasts.
Flying desert eagle
From afar it looks like a giant eagle swooshes across the desert landscape, flapping its wing ends almost to touch the desert sands. Upon inspection, a rope at its center invites participants to pull it and set the wings in motion as it vividly mimics the natural movements of the majestic bird of prey. Once again, a work of art that is lifeless and uninspiring until you participate brings it to life. Possibly a universal idea, but here it is amplified.
Burning Man’s artistic explorations extend well beyond sculptures and installation works. From the candidly ridiculous like a class that teaches you effective techniques for yelling at your neighbors to solo weddings that offer you a chance to love till death for certain or workshops like you have never heard workshops before flying banner titles such as Crotch Puppets, Narwhals:Unicorns of the sea, Free lasik laser eye surgery or simply Best butt Olympiad.
But, workshops are more than simply a competition in the ludicrous. The cultural ties to Silicon Valley’s avant-garde culture are obvious. True creatives can teach you startup success tips, the latest in Blockchain advancement, and how to unlock creativity in your (working) life. Everything is dependent on lecturing in more than one manner. Participation is essential. Body-mind harmony is essential. A creative writing session attended by numerous Innovation Lab agents began with a body dance. Awkwardness overcome, it was an ingenious way to invoke natural participation and paved way for open and well received criticism when participants shared their work
What to take away
In essence, Burning Man is a melting pot of the surreal but also the extremely real, promoting a soon to be rare art of presence. Experimentation is encouraged on all levels, and unbounded curiosity is encouraged. The proceeds in a rare worship of way over destination as most is burned in the end anyway. A middle finger to the otherwise prevalent goal-orientedness, product emphasis, and outcome hypnosis. The excellent finish is a byproduct of a terrific collaborative effort. Presence, dedication, discipline, co-creation, and curiosity lead to success. That is not the outcome of a well-planned execution.
So, what can we learn from a beach party that has lasted over three decades? In an age of automation and the ability to delegate mechanical activities to machines and algorithms, we must reimagine our own human responsibilities. Creativity becomes essential, and it will be the new primary criterion for long-term relevance. The challenge is, of course, how to be creative and innovative. And, in the heightened struggle to increase creativity, how to be creative among the supercreative. Here, you need to train your creative muscles and no better place for that exists in the mind expanding, playful real life experiment called Burning Man. Because it is not just about adding skills, it is about transformation, about acquiring new priorities, about changing as a human and about expanding the capabilities of your personality.