There is much said today about equipping individuals to succeed in life: how to become better educated, increase your IQ, learn new languages, and even eat healthier. We should turn away from self-focus and instead design smarter groups — groups that can create “scenius” - or “communal genius.” What am I talking about?
WIRED Editor Kevin Kelly is a new friend whom I deeply admire - especially for his tome What Technology Wants - the veritable On the Origin of Species applied to technology - in which he blends philosophical and theological analysis of the purpose of technology. Kevin’s article brought the concept of scenius to my attention and quotes the work of Brian Eno, who provides this definition: "Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius."
Kelly lays out a few factors that might nurture the development of scenius (quoting directly):
• 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.
• Local tolerance for the novelties — The local “outside” does not push back too hard against the transgressions of the scene. The renegades and mavericks are protected by this buffer zone.
As we design our own workplaces and even homes - we ought to seek these principles out. If you are like me - lacking in the personal genius - then our best hope is to build smarter communities that have a chance of creating scenius.