Before Tweet-ups, before flash mobs, before raves, before disco, there were Happenings: a cultural trend of note, highly innovative at the time, and worth revisiting. We’re creating a new version of a Happening in Boston next week. We know there is something to learn from the old trend, namely we learn best through interacting with cultural stimuli alongside other people.
Flashback to the first Happenings: they were hosted by high level artists in the New York City area (such as George Segal and Allan Kaprow) in the late 50’s and early 60’s. They were going on about the same time as the Beat Generation of writers (Kerouac, Ginsberg, etc). Of course, they evolved, and every sort of happening from the formal and overly arty (read pretentious) to the completely wacked out acid trip tests, were the left and right of the spectrum. Even the weaker attempts were a breath of fresh air in our view. The ambiance of these smaller events set the stage for Woodstock, perhaps the ultimate Happening — but it’s a gray area to call Woodstock a Happening. In some respects they are still going on — for instance The Burning Man Festival. Fair to say, Happenings, if they happen, are called something else now and often have entirely different motives.
What was the motive behind Happenings forty-some years ago? Hard to say, but self-expression would be one, and an intentional reinvention of a community gathering would be another, and perhaps lurking in the background, a quest for notoriety and even acceptance within a rapidly evolving arts scene.
The key element to a Happening was surprise. Something unexpected was going to go down at a Happening. Happenings were stimulating in a multi-dimensional way, maybe in an attempt to generate a legal high. Another key was some kind of performance including conceptual performance art. And finally it was participative; you couldn’t just watch — you had to be part of it.
Thinking for a second about organizational innovation: how might a “Happening” be a better kick off for idea generation than, say, a deck of PowerPoint slides? As it happens (pun intended) KILN is collaborating with Gregg’s good friend Anne Manning of Drum Circle to make a post-Happening Happening. It’s all Happening next Monday in Boston (May 16, 2011). We’re calling it Happening 5.16, both nodding to and reinventing the old trend.
At Happening 5.16 guests will be invited to share a series of kinaesthetic and sensory experiences. It’s Kiln’s special offer for selected attendees of the Front End of Innovation show. We think more than a few participants at the conference will appreciate an alternative evening activity to cocktails in the hotel lounge (and at least one experience liberated from the dreaded PowerPoint.) Happening 5.16 will demo, in very short form, a new approach to innovation process: the KILN System. Unlike Happenings of old, this one introduces a commercial motive, specifically a product, IdeaKeg, which is the innovation subscription service at the heart of the KILN System. Having said that, it will be the softest sell of the day. Instead, Happening 5.16 will propose a lot of unexpected, participative, hopefully interesting, experiences designed to freshen your perspective about how one can approach innovation from a very different starting point.
No LSD in the punch — unless some of our guests are way more creative in that direction than we give them credit for! No bongo drums (but maybe you can bring some?) Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight may attend.
If you’re in Boston that day and would like to join in Happening 5.16, please get in touch and we’ll see what we can arrange.