What a CEO seeks in the desert

What a CEO seeks in the desert

Our CEO Fabian Hediger headed to the Nevada desert at the invitation of Burning Man’s “bad ass” CEO Marian Goodell

We don’t know what your boss might be into, but here at WORLDWEBFORUM, our CEO Fabian Hediger headed to the Nevada desert at the invitation of Burning Man’s “bad ass” CEO Marian Goodell, who as a long-term Burner also moonlights as the “Queen of the Desert at Burning Man” throughout the eight-day festival.

Far from its humble beginning in 1986 at a San Francisco beach party, today it is furnished with an annual budget of US$40 million and in 2017 alone, brought together 75K+ participants.

Goodell credits the framework Burners subscribe to, known as The 10 Principles of Burning Man, as the center of their cultural and organization’s philosophy. It is implied that the fundamental and pressing message of The Ten Principles is that they bring about a prominent sense of happiness to the participants, but more than just in a hedonistic sense. Burning Man’s user experience has been so rich and satisfying that the business model thrives on word of mouth alone, with zero advertising. This is central to their branding.

Goodell manages to oversee operations while exercising her right to be “the figure head of fun” in the desert metropolis. Throughout the interview, she delves into how the valued The Ten Principles of Burning Man are transferable and useful to everyday work life, while reviewing over some principles, which may not be applicable for everyday businesses.

The importance of how great things are achieved through team effort is highly emphasized in Communal Effort, “in the case of Burning Man, we are working on building a (Black Rock) city together”. Civic Responsibility comes next. “You’re responsible for the outcome of that experience in which you’re a citizen”. Being civil is being respectful and complying with the rules and participating. Participation by being pro-active, “showing up, raising your hand, offering assistance, offering your opinion, offering to help to reach that outcome”.

Goodell then talks about the caveats of The Ten Principles at the work place. Radical Self-Expression differs from one place to another, stating “in a creative organization, there’s a lot more room than in a formal organization. For example, a blue wig at Burning Man is completely appropriate but not in a military organization. Radical Inclusion may not be practical due to the fact that “companies create requirements and filters so that they’re getting the most qualified individuals.” Leaving No Trace at the work place is not feasible either but “being aware of your waste stream” can be done consciously.

Beyond the shiny costumes and radical artsy weeklong party, perhaps what is appealing about Burning Man to Silicon Valley giants is the take-away feeling of a festival aftermath. Goodell leaves us with this message, “How The Ten Principles are functioning in Black Rock City together is what makes them a transformative experience. Taking them apart one by one and saying you’re putting Burning Man in your life is not as effective as saying, eight of these really work. Let’s make eight of them work and what are the other two and what kind of meaning can we get from those other two?”