We have the opportunity to build and create things all the time, and with groups of motivated, capable people. Sometimes we’re making a company, sometimes a party, sometimes just dinner. In the case of Burning Man, it’s easily the likes of all three.
After my second visit to Nevada’s Black Rock City, I found ways to bring home what I learned about working on a happy team. Having the time, resources and ability to realize any kind of dream at all is a gift.
Burning Man is a week of camping, music, art, radical self-reliance and expression in a remote and inhospitable dessert. Last year I wrote about what designers can learn from Burning Man but best description of the festival comes from the Huffington Post.
During this year, our camp put in specific effort to be a team working and playing happier together with balanced responsibilities. Because if you and all your friends, and all their friends, and all of their friends choose to take a week off for the purpose of being together, without distraction and obligation, you better do it right. Here’s how.
Meet in person
You could do all of you preparation in one week. Cliff bars, gallons of water and a small tent will get you through a week on the Playa. This year, we scheduled planning, working and playing meetings all year to strengthen our social bonds and increase investment and trust within each other as coworking group.
Physically sharing time together made work and tasks a pleasure, not a job. It helped generate new ideas and helped us figure out what we, as a group, cared most about.
Share a common goal
Our camp, led by two DJs, has a history of being a music and dance camp. Our camp had 7 sets of current or former roommates, 5 couples and 3 sibling pairs, so while having a great music camp was a priority, we learned having a family feel for each other and guests was just as important. By sharing the same ultimate goals, we were never left asking ‘Why do I have to do this?’ or shoving responsibility onto someone else.
Do what you love
Our teams were made up of people working on something for which they naturally cared.
I was happy as a clam choose a color palate for the camp and hang fabric for shade. Our DJs were best equipped to check the generators and sound quality. And those who loved to cook, set up a kitchen for homemade Chinese dumpings, guacamole, steaks, bacon quesadillas and fresh cut fruit for days.
When someone who enjoys their daily tasks and sees the need to get ice from center camp or that a group across the street is struggling to get the dome assembled, they will self-initiate and make the extra hand an act of gifting rather than resentment or tally counting.
Support individual goals
The people who make up a group have their own priorities and those to should be supported and celebrated. I had the joy to hear multiple people I love play the best DJ sets of their lives, build their most grand projects and come to new understandings of themselves.
And with surprise, family from all across our village came to dance on wooden platforms in a dust cloud, while I made music visuals at some epic dance camps.
It’s ok to be human
Everyone is always going through something and figuring out something they haven’t done before. And when there are problems on a team, or I think, perhaps, I am the problem, here’s a fine reminder. We are far from perfectly automated, logical, mechanical, precise robots. We are just squishy little, irrational humans and that’s ok.
Same lesson, new year
Having dropped myself an other-worldy place, I’ve learned how delicate our fleshy, vulnerable, skin and bones and hearts are. If we’re going to work together to make chairs and phones and streets and clocks and code whatever else it is that we make together, let’s do it like people.