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 offers important lessons for managers in any organization, particularly in uncertain times.