At the DevOps Enterprise Summit this week in London Gene Kim drew the audience's attention to the concept of 'scenius'; the communal form of genius. A term coined by musician Brian Eno, it counters 'The Lone Genius Myth'; the belief that innovation comes from a few great chosen ones. Eno defines it as:
“Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene."
As Austin Kleon puts it: genius is an egosystem, scenius is an ecosystem.
Scenius is characterised by:
• Mutual appreciation: Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy; the best of peer pressure
• Rapid exchange of tools and techniques: Something is invented and immediately flaunted and shared. Ideas flow quickly because they are flowing inside a common language and sensibility
• Network effects of success: When a record is broken, a hit happens, or breakthrough erupts, the success is claimed by the entire scene thus empowering the scene to further success
• Local tolerance for the novelties: The local “outside” does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene and the renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone
Examples of scenius abound in the worlds of art and literature such as the Algonquin Round Table, the Bloomsbury Group, the Renaissance, Soho lofts and music festivals like Glastonbury, Woodstock and Burning Man. Examples in science include the Lunar Society, Building 20 at MIT, or Silicon Valley.
The DevOps movement then, can claim to be a scenius - it matches all the characteristics as we saw this week at the DevOps Enterprise Summit. I think we can also potentially use it to help organisations adopt DevOps Ways of Working applying it not just to the DevOps global community as a whole but as a pattern for behaviour in organisations. This really works with empowering people to participate in change through evolution, as Kleon puts it in his book, Show Your Work:
"Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily about how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute - the ideas you share, the quality of the connections you make, and the conversations you start. If we forget about genius and think more about how we can nurture and contribute to a scenius, we can adjust our own expectations and the expectations of the worlds we want to accept us. We can stop asking what others can do for us, and start asking what we can do for others."