Enabling Creative Chaos: The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event

University of Chicago Press
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In the summer of 2008, nearly fifty thousand people traveled to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to participate in the countercultural arts event Burning Man. Founded on a commitment to expression and community, the annual weeklong festival presents unique challenges to its organizers. Over four years Katherine K. Chen regularly participated in organizing efforts to safely and successfully create a temporary community in the middle of the desert under the hot August sun.

Enabling Creative Chaos tracks how a small, underfunded group of organizers transformed into an unconventional corporation with a ten-million-dollar budget and two thousand volunteers. Over the years, Burning Man’s organizers have experimented with different management models; learned how to recruit, motivate, and retain volunteers; and developed strategies to handle regulatory agencies and respond to media coverage. This remarkable evolution, Chen reveals, offers important lessons for managers in any organization, particularly in uncertain times.

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About the author

Katherine K. Chen is assistant professor of sociology at The City College of New York and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 15, 2009
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Pages
242
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ISBN
9780226102399
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / General
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In eighteenth-century France, the ability to lose oneself in a character or scene marked both great artists and ideal spectators. Yet it was thought this same passionate enthusiasm, if taken to unreasonable extremes, could also lead to sexual deviance, mental illness—even death. Women and artists were seen as especially susceptible to these negative consequences of creative enthusiasm, and women artists, doubly so.

Mary D. Sheriff uses these very different visions of enthusiasm to explore the complex interrelationships among creativity, sexuality, the body and the mind in eighteenth-century France. Drawing on evidence from the visual arts, literature, philosophy, and medicine, she portrays the deviance ascribed to both inspired men and women. But while various mythologies worked to normalize deviance in male artists, women had no justification for their deviance. For instance, the mythical sculptor Pygmalion was cured of an abnormal love for his statue through the making of art. He became a model for creative artists, living happily with his statue come to life. No happy endings, though, were imagined for such inspired women writers as Sappho and Heloise, who burned with erotomania their art could not quench. Even so, Sheriff demonstrates, the perceived connections among sexuality, creativity, and disease also opened artistic opportunities for creative women took full advantage of them.

Brilliantly reassessing the links between sexuality and creativity, artistic genius and madness, passion and reason, Moved by Love will profoundly reshape our view of eighteenth- century French culture.
Graham Hancock's multi-million bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods remains an astonishing, deeply controversial, wide-ranging investigation of the mysteries of our past and the evidence for Earth's lost civilization. Twenty years on, Hancock returns with the sequel to his seminal work filled with completely new, scientific and archaeological evidence, which has only recently come to light...

Near the end of the last Ice Age 12,800 years ago, a giant comet that had entered the solar system from deep space thousands of years earlier, broke into multiple fragments. Some of these struck the Earth causing a global cataclysm on a scale unseen since the extinction of the dinosaurs. At least eight of the fragments hit the North American ice cap, while further fragments hit the northern European ice cap. The impacts, from comet fragments a mile wide approaching at more than 60,000 miles an hour, generated huge amounts of heat which instantly liquidized millions of square kilometers of ice, destabilizing the Earth's crust and causing the global Deluge that is remembered in myths all around the world. A second series of impacts, equally devastating, causing further cataclysmic flooding, occurred 11,600 years ago, the exact date that Plato gives for the destruction and submergence of Atlantis.

The evidence revealed in this book shows beyond reasonable doubt that an advanced civilization that flourished during the Ice Age was destroyed in the global cataclysms between 12,800 and 11,600 years ago. But there were survivors - known to later cultures by names such as 'the Sages', 'the Magicians', 'the Shining Ones', and 'the Mystery Teachers of Heaven'. They travelled the world in their great ships doing all in their power to keep the spark of civilization burning. They settled at key locations - Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, Baalbek in the Lebanon, Giza in Egypt, ancient Sumer, Mexico, Peru and across the Pacific where a huge pyramid has recently been discovered in Indonesia. Everywhere they went these 'Magicians of the Gods' brought with them the memory of a time when mankind had fallen out of harmony with the universe and paid a heavy price. A memory and a warning to the future...

For the comet that wrought such destruction between 12,800 and 11,600 years may not be done with us yet. Astronomers believe that a 20-mile wide 'dark' fragment of the original giant comet remains hidden within its debris stream and threatens the Earth. An astronomical message encoded at Gobekli Tepe, and in the Sphinx and the pyramids of Egypt,warns that the 'Great Return' will occur in our time...

Hercules, Zeus, Thor, Gilgamesh--these are the figures that leap to mind when we think of myth. But to David Leeming, myths are more than stories of deities and fantastic beings from non-Christian cultures. Myth is at once the most particular and the most universal feature of civilization, representing common concerns that each society voices in its own idiom. Whether an Egyptian story of creation or the big-bang theory of modern physics, myth is metaphor, mirroring our deepest sense of ourselves in relation to existence itself. Now, in The World of Myth, Leeming provides a sweeping anthology of myths, ranging from ancient Egypt and Greece to the Polynesian islands and modern science. We read stories of great floods from the ancient Babylonians, Hebrews, Chinese, and Mayans; tales of apocalypse from India, the Norse, Christianity, and modern science; myths of the mother goddess from Native American Hopi culture and James Lovelock's Gaia. Leeming has culled myths from Aztec, Greek, African, Australian Aboriginal, Japanese, Moslem, Hittite, Celtic, Chinese, and Persian cultures, offering one of the most wide-ranging collections of what he calls the collective dreams of humanity. More important, he has organized these myths according to a number of themes, comparing and contrasting how various societies have addressed similar concerns, or have told similar stories. In the section on dying gods, for example, both Odin and Jesus sacrifice themselves to renew the world, each dying on a tree. Such traditions, he proposes, may have their roots in societies of the distant past, which would ritually sacrifice their kings to renew the tribe. In The World of Myth, David Leeming takes us on a journey "not through a maze of falsehood but through a marvellous world of metaphor," metaphor for "the story of the relationship between the known and the unknown, both around us and within us." Fantastic, tragic, bizarre, sometimes funny, the myths he presents speak of the most fundamental human experience, a part of what Joseph Campbell called "the wonderful song of the soul's high adventure."
The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?


Few books in computing have had as profound an influence on software management as Peopleware . The unique insight of this longtime best seller is that the major issues of software development are human, not technical. They’re not easy issues; but solve them, and you’ll maximize your chances of success.

“Peopleware has long been one of my two favorite books on software engineering. Its underlying strength is its base of immense real experience, much of it quantified. Many, many varied projects have been reflected on and distilled; but what we are given is not just lifeless distillate, but vivid examples from which we share the authors’ inductions. Their premise is right: most software project problems are sociological, not technological. The insights on team jelling and work environment have changed my thinking and teaching. The third edition adds strength to strength.”

— Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., Kenan Professor of Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Author of The Mythical Man-Month and The Design of Design


“Peopleware is the one book that everyone who runs a software team needs to read and reread once a year. In the quarter century since the first edition appeared, it has become more important, not less, to think about the social and human issues in software develop¿ment. This is the only way we’re going to make more humane, productive workplaces. Buy it, read it, and keep a stock on hand in the office supply closet.”

—Joel Spolsky, Co-founder, Stack Overflow


“When a book about a field as volatile as software design and use extends to a third edition, you can be sure that the authors write of deep principle, of the fundamental causes for what we readers experience, and not of the surface that everyone recognizes. And to bring people, actual human beings, into the mix! How excellent. How rare. The authors have made this third edition, with its additions, entirely terrific.”

—Lee Devin and Rob Austin, Co-authors of The Soul of Design and Artful Making

For this third edition, the authors have added six new chapters and updated the text throughout, bringing it in line with today’s development environments and challenges. For example, the book now discusses pathologies of leadership that hadn’t previously been judged to be pathological; an evolving culture of meetings; hybrid teams made up of people from seemingly incompatible generations; and a growing awareness that some of our most common tools are more like anchors than propellers. Anyone who needs to manage a software project or software organization will find invaluable advice throughout the book.

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