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9 Things Burning Man Can Teach Companies About Boosting Creativity and Morale

There’s plenty to be learned at Black Rock City. Just ask Elon Musk, Larry Page, Sergey Brin or even P. Diddy. Many CEOs and execs take the Burn seriously – as a way to tap into progressive, next-level thinking and find new perspectives on complex challenges.

That’s because Burning Man is so much more than a giant party in the desert. It’s a master class in creativity, community and collaboration. People return year after year because it inspires creativity and boosts morale before, during and long after Burning Man takes place.

And the event itself is an incredible example of successful enterprising. Started in 1986 with a crowd of 20 on Baker Beach, over the past thirty years it’s grown to an internationally recognized festival with a draw of 70,000 people from all walks of life.

So what can your company learn about boosting creativity and morale from Burning Man? Here are the top 9 takeaways:

1. Radical inclusion

Anyone is welcome at Burning Man, no exceptions. You’re there, you’re in. And when everyone is made to feel welcome and included, beautiful things happen towering works of creativity, random acts of kindness and authentic connections.

In the business world, embracing diversity and championing inclusion can help you create better business outcomes – and boost your ability to attract top talent.

2. Radical self-reliance

There is no plumbing or electricity in Black Rock City, no municipal utilities whatsoever. Everything attendees need is brought in and packed out by each person. Which means Burners need to have a plan for meeting their most basic needs before they even reach the playa.

Planning for different scenarios, even worst-case, is critical to any business’s success. One way to get prepared for the future is to equip your people with the skills they need to succeed.

3. Radical self-expression

Burning Man is probably best known for its enthusiastic approach to self-expression. From the outfits to the playa names to the art installations, every aspect of the event is an opportunity to express feelings, experiences and ideas.

While not every workspace is appropriate for anything goes (clothing is generally not optional), creating room for moments of radical self-expression in the workplace, like Facebook does, can lead to creative breakthroughs and boost employee satisfaction.

4. Civic responsibility

Black Rock City has an enviably low crime rate, as cities go. That’s because Burners are community-minded. The community is more important than the individual: the only way that the community can continue in years to come is if everybody respects the rules and stays safe.

Many workers today, especially millennials, want to give back to their communities. Providing your employees with volunteer opportunities fulfills that need and helps you engage them.

5. Collaboration

Burning Man wouldn’t exist without collaboration. After all, it’s the product of 70,000 people coming together to build a city in the desert, simply because they want to. It’s a perfect example of group flow in action and it works because each individual feels part of a bigger whole.

The Highest Rated CEOs on Glassdoor encourage collaboration by leading by example. What are some ways your company can create the right environment for collaboration to flourish?

6. Environmental responsibility

Since Burning Man takes place in an ecologically sensitive location, Black Rock Desert, attendees need to practice habits conscientious of their surroundings, like leave no trace. Everyone packs out all their waste, in an effort to make as little impact as possible.

Sustainable values are in increasing demand by job seekers. Owning environmental responsibility as a key company pillar, like Cisco, can help you better attract top talent.

7. Participation

In Black Rock City, doing is experiencing. Participation is the only way to make the world of Burning Man real. People don’t travel all the way to the desert in Nevada to sit in their camps and watch the spectacle unfold. They participate and shape their experience by doing so.

Want to encourage your best people to stick around? Engaging your employees to participate beyond their job descriptions can help boost their satisfaction.

8. Immediacy

Burning Man exists for only two weeks of the year. Most of the artworks are built specifically for Burning Man and have no future homes once taken down. As for the Burning Man himself, the giant statue is burned down to the ground at the festival’s close.

It’s far too easy to get caught up in the challenges of tomorrow without celebrating the successes of today. Hit the pause button to appreciate your employees and celebrate your wins.

9. Spirit of giving

It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if we didn’t use money or even a barter system to get the things we need. But in Black Rock city, that’s how it is. In fact, commodification is against the rules. In its place, people give gifts spontaneously and without expectation of anything in return.

As an employer, you can’t give in quite the same way, but you can show your people you care about them with the right benefits.

Want more tips about building up a company culture that helps you retain top talent? Check out our eBook, Culture Codes of Best Places to Work.

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