What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Burning Man

BMOrg continue on their mission to get every mainstream business publication to look at them for guidance on how to run companies, with Harley Dubois giving an interview to Entrepreneur magazine.

re-blogged from Entrepreneur.com (emphasis ours):

If you aren’t already an entrepreneur, you may become one by the time you leave Burning Man — in some shape or form.

You won’t make money in the desert; the exchange of money isn’t allowed at the annual, weeklong arts festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. But you will have created something for someone. You will have seen a need and met it. You will have innovated a solution to a problem or decided to spontaneously create a new service or product for yourself and your fellow Burners (that’s what attendees are called).

And that energy, that entrepreneurial spirit, is priceless. It’s what so many management consultants charge top dollar right now to bring to stuffy corporate offices.

Lessons From Burning Man on How to Unlock Creativity and Think Big

Image credit: Jared Mechaber

…Whether your goal is to get your creative juices flowing, or to facilitate a more experimental and productive workplace, you need to start by eliminating unnecessary regulations and burdensome structure. At Burning Man, “an entrepreneurial spirit is going to come to the forefront very easily because there aren’t a lot of rules, but there is opportunity,Harley K. Dubois, a co-founder of the event, told Entrepreneur earlier this fall at The Feast, a social innovation conference in Brooklyn, N.Y…

“It is unrealistic to think people aren’t going to judge. People are people and they do, but when they do and somebody calls you on it, you have to reflect on yourself,” says Dubois.

Burning Man, like entrepreneurship, is an event that requires equal parts organization and whimsy… 

Part of the entrepreneurial culture at Burning Man, says Dubois, is that there are no repercussions or penalties for failure when you are out in the middle of the desert. “Failure is part of it. I mean, you should be happy you failed because that means you can get it right next time!”

Lessons From Burning Man on How to Unlock Creativity and Think Big


Burners attempt everything from building airships made of color and light to sail across the Burning Man playa at night to creating man-made mobile “icebergs” for Burners to cool off in and listen to music in. And then there are more practical entrepreneurial operations, like the mobile “Dust City Diner,” which serves hot grilled-cheese sandwiches and coffee to fellow Burners. “We create a vessel and the participants who come to our event bring the content. We are vessel creators. Without the people coming and bringing those costumes, bringing their ideas, bringing their art, bringing everything they bring themselves, this wouldn’t happen,” says Dubois…

While the first iteration of Burning Man was largely about stereotypical “hippie/artist” sorts sleeping in tents on the desert for a week, the last few festivals have been increasingly attended by the Silicon Valley elitein a sort of hedonistic party meets business networking opportunity. Entrepreneurs get funded, co-founders meet and come together and deals are made, all against the backdrop of dust for days and almost-naked revelers. Dubois wishes the Burning Man team had been tracking the businesses that were incubated in its dust-covered-temporary city.

“If we had tracked all these businesses that had come out of the inspiration of Burning Man, we would have a really amazing tree to look at,” she says.

Lessons From Burning Man on How to Unlock Creativity and Think Big

Read the full article here.

20 comments on “What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Burning Man

  1. Pingback: BMOrg Hath Spoken | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. I have never been to this festival, but after reading some posts on your blog, as creative as Burning Man might sound, there is no way I would ever be interested in being part of this. There is so much beauty and creativity in this world that there is no reason to become part of a herd of 60,000 people all drugged up or intoxicated, acting dangerously and putting their life at risk. I appreciate you reporting on this side of this festival.

    ….. After looking a bit more through your blog, Burning Man sounds like the very last place on earth a rational adult would want to be, in my opinion.

    Everything I have read here is the exact opposite of true BEAUTY.

    This place sounds very disturbing, according to this blog.

    May you all be safe and watched over…

    • It’s like any city – there are good bits, and bad bits. To many, taking drugs is part of the good bits. There is definitely a great deal of beauty at Burning Man. Given the amount of intoxicated people, the number of fatalities and violent assaults is relatively low.

    • >drugged up or intoxicated, acting dangerously and putting their life at risk

      You missed those years of the festival, sadly they’re long gone. Now it’s mostly about safety at every corner and rules and regulations and profiteering. If anything, you should go for those reasons.

    • You should remember that this blog exists primarily to provide a critical perspective.

      Its author and the vast majority of its readers are regular Burning Man attendees and very familiar with the positives and negatives of the festival. Most will keep going despite the problems discussed here. For someone in your position, the upshot of the information here is that you would receive a more corporatized, sanitized, and perhaps even safer version of the Burning Man Experience™ than previous attendees did. And you wouldn’t even know the difference.

  3. and look if you convince some rubes that there’s meaningful principles of some sort you can get your labor for FREE!!!

    • That’s why BM is the darling of the world festival circuit, other festivals want to copy the free labor business model. All they have to do is say their festivals are transformative and/or spiritual and has principles and the rest of the world is the default world (that doesn’t ‘get it’), and kids still within the “age of coercion” line up to hand over their labor and money.

      • Burning Man is an awesome university business school case study, the manner of which to take a community throwing an awesome crowd sourced party, and control it, monetize it for numerous millions free of tax levies, and the study of the manners of attempting to remain in top down control over a bottoms up event, while having the attendees provide the entertainment, and most of the spectacle, from their own pockets.

  4. Corporate retreats are big business, like Asilomar. Basically it allows co-workers to finally fuck each other safely away from their spouses. It let’s off that sexual tension. The rule is, it’s not cheating if it’s 500 miles or more from home. BM is the perfect corporate retreat. Everyone comes away thinking they’ve somehow been transformed, and they credit that hallucination to the company. This has been going on since the late 90s at BM, when the dot com money flowed before the bubble popped. It wasn’t frowned on and a lot of companies found ways to network. But that was when the swimming pool was inflatable, now the pool is 100x Olympic.

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