I love learning there is a legitimate word for a process I’m intentionally practicing. Like when I was reading through Austin Kleon’s new book, Show Your Work and stumbled upon his description of scenius.

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.

It’s actually a concept he borrowed from Brian Eno :

I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. And I think that’s a more useful way to think about culture, actually. I think that – let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while, let’s think about the whole ecology of ideas that give rise to good new thoughts and good new work.

While I wasn’t aware of what I was doing, I’ve found myself gravitating towards artists in the last several months to drive creative solutions in my professional work. A soak with Nikki at Common Ground allows me to hear about the vulnerability and full-body expression required for doing clown and mask work with actors. Having lunch with an architect or designer opens me up to big-picture thinking and perspectives I never considered. Conversation with a master storyteller helps me understand the arc and quest in each of our journeys of leadership. These exchanges invite me to see old problems (my own and my clients) with new eyes.

My personal life is rich with teachers, social workers, and healthcare providers; I am surrounded by people skilled in compassion, service, and kindness. I am also lucky to rub shoulders with folks who live life kinesthetically – personal trainers, coaches, yoga instructors, marathon runners, even my own children; I’m inspired by their playfulness, agility, strength. The engineers and physicists that let me into their analytical and innovative minds challenge me to think deeper, critically, with the keen eye of a scientific observer. (Watching Rohnan put together Legos also teaches me something about focus). The artists in my circle push boundaries, illuminate beauty, create wonder.

Collectively, we are a scenius. We compliment and learn from each other, returning to the ancient wisdom that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Maybe we’ll build a scenius right here on this site. How do you nurture yours?


2 thoughts on “Scenius

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