The power of scenius

This term “scenius” comes from Brian Eno, a famous musician, record producer, and visual artist, best known for helping to define and reinvent the sound of some of the most popular bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s (e.g., U2, DEVO, Talking Heads, David Bowie, etc.).

He observed that despite heroic mythology, lone geniuses do not drive most scientific, cultural, business, or policy advances. Breakthroughs typically emerge from a scene: an exceptionally productive community of practice that develops novel epistemic norms. He wrote, “major innovation may indeed take a genius—but the genius is created in part by a scenius.”

Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of WIRED Magazine, brilliantly describes this concept further []:

“Scenius” stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius. Individuals immersed in a scenius will blossom and produce their best work. When buoyed by scenius, you act like genius. Your like-minded peers, and the entire environment inspire you.

Kevin Kelly goes on to expand upon the amazing characteristics of a scenius. I quote:

  • Mutual appreciation: Risky moves are applauded by the group, subtlety is appreciated, and friendly competition goads the shy. Scenius can be thought of as the best of peer pressure.
  • Rapid exchange of tools and techniques: As soon as something is invented, it is flaunted and then 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. This empowers the scene to further success.

In the most productive sceniuses, like in Eno’s musical scenius, the magic that is created comes from assembling extremely talented people from a diverse set of perspectives, skills, and backgrounds who all share similar values. Even if their specific goals aren’t the same, they overlap enough so that incredible joint collaborations happen.

I have seen firsthand the incredible network effects and the up-leveling effects of scenius in the DevOps Enterprise community—this is a community that loves helping each other, to an extent that constantly amazes me.

The goal of the DevOps Enterprise Summit is to support this amazing scenius and to help technology leaders succeed, who often have to fight ancient, powerful orders who are quite happy with the way things are and TWWADI (“The Way We’ve Always Done It”).

And that mission goes on, regardless of whether the conference is physical or virtual.