The Devil, The Details, and Burning Man

Click above for an overview from CEO Craig Clark

We at Momentum Consulting are in the business of helping businesses accelerate and perform through executive and team training in leadership and high performance. We lead by example, utilizing our 26 Organizational Fundamentals in how we operate business. We can help your business uncover your organizational fundamentals and work on the details as a team.

BLACK ROCK CITY, Nev. — It was dusk on the opening night of 2019 Burning Man, and the makers and misfits were touching up their art projects.

Subwoofers oontz-oontzed as cyclists draped in glowing LEDs pedaled through the desert. And Paul Romer, former Chief Economist for the World Bank and a reigning laureate of the Nobel Prize in economics, sat on a second-story porch at the center of it all, marveling at the detailed subtlety of the street grid.

It’s just like every other city,” Mr. Romer said. “Except in this other way, it’s like no city ever.”

A week earlier, there was hardly anything here, in the remote desert of northwest Nevada, nor would there be when everyone left. The tens of thousands of people had just shown up, many in the middle of the night. They had formed an instant city, with a road network, and a raucous street life, and a weird make-do architecture…the world, he says, needs more “Burning Man urbanization.”

 (-Alex Welsh for The New York Times, Published Sept. 5, 2019)

There are two things that make Burning Man work, I think:

The layout, 7 square miles, is thoughtfully meticulous in its detailed simplicity for access and mobility.

Burning Man operates on 10 inviolate principles, written by its co-founder, that reflect the  behaviors appropriate to the “culture and ethos”

Within this detailed structure of physical logistics and moral behavior, people are free to express themselves in ways usually unavailable to them in normal society.

My family and I attended Burning Man in 2019, the same as Romer.  I was stunned to see the civility of some 70,000 people having a celebration of life, fueled by new age music. And surrounded by the extraordinary creativity and art expressed in this environment.  

Tell people how to behave, give them a reason to do so, and they most often will. 

This is an approach we use and we offer our clients to consciously build a performance based culture.

The detailed simplicity of Black Rock City’s layout is the platform for this amazing annual occurrence, and it gives a structural integrity for the participants to live by the Burning Man Principals.  Consider the mess Woodstock was as a comparative example of a lack of detailed planning, not to mention a money loser.

To be honest, paying attention to details does not come naturally to me.  Marlene will vouch for this, attesting to the years of sighs and eye-rolls at various setbacks stemming from my hurrying past often obvious details.  In the business world you will often hear the expression, “the Devil is in the details,” an admonishment to pay attention! What sounds like a great idea may or may not be, depending on the structure that supports it.

I am happy to report that the world has beaten and coached into me a certain respect for details over the years.  I have come to appreciate that the integrity of most anything or anyone is revealed in the details of how it/they are put together.  Take Honoring Commitments, our Fundamental # 10. My ability to be that is limited or enhanced by how clear I am about the expectations of others, or those I have. 

Through some trying years, I have learned that “shooting from the hip” is not a strong tactical strategy.

I have learned to research things that attract my attention before buying in.  I have learned not only to put things in my calendar with sufficient details to perform, but, most importantly, regularly check it. 

I have learned that an email is often insufficient to fulfill the intent of the email. I have learned to check and double check things before they go out, and still things can slip by.  I have learned that being impatient, being in a hurry, being “too busy”, are all detriments to clean work. Like they say, “the Devil is in the details.”

So if you look at the structure of your organization, ie. the culture, is it by default or design?  Is it thoughtfully detailed to produce efficiency, productivity and engagement, or does it have a haphazard nature that can often create obstacles to those things?

What impact does executive leadership have on these things?

Those are all things you can correct! If you want some help, call me. We can put together a plan to work out the details that make the impact you are looking for.



Fundamental of the Week #25: PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS. Be rigorous about accuracy and precision. Double-check your work.

Momentum Consulting offers executive business coaching, top level executive consulting, team trainings, and team offsites to build and transform your business to the next level. Inquire about business consulting and leadership coaching today.

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