Omar Lizardo talk at 4pm EDT at The City College of New York this Wed., April 4, 2012

Back in Feb., thanks to colleague Prof. Leslie Paik, the CCNY Dept. of Sociology was lucky to have UWI Prof. Alice Goffman present on her research on how Philadelphia inner city residents’ tenuous relations with the local police.

This Wed., April 4, 2012 from 4-5:30pm EDT, University of Notre Dame Prof. and orgtheorist Omar Lizardo will give a talk on his research, titled “Liking Things, Talking Culture, and Making Friends.”

This “talk will explore the links between cultural tastes and practices, conversational interaction and social network outcomes, paying special emphasis on how this research informs our thinking about the bases of social stratification in the contemporary context.”

The talk is in the Dominican Studies Institute Library, North Academic Center (NAC) 2/202 at 160 Convent Ave. NY, NY 10031. To enter the building, bring a valid id.

Download the flier here: Omar Lizardo Flyer-Final

Next talk stop: University of Toronto on Thursday, November 17, 2011 and ARNOVA annual meeting

My next talk stop is at the University of Toronto in Canada at 4pm on Thursday, November 17, 2011. The talk is scheduled for Room 240 of the Sociology Department, 725 Spadin at the University of Toronto, downtown St. George campus in Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2J4. Please contact Professor Erik Schneiderhan ( to confirm the location.

I am presenting: “Commiserating and Celebrating Authenticity at Burning Man: The Bases for Interaction Ritual Chains.” I will also be meeting with students and colleagues before and after the talk.

I will also be in Toronto for the annual meeting for the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) Nov. 17-19, where I will be presenting for the first time on my newest research project on organizations that provide education, social services, or advocacy for older adults. On Fri., Nov. 18, I will also be accepting the ARNOVA 2011 “Outstanding Book” award in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research for Enabling Creative Chaos: The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event.

I am looking forward to catching up with colleagues in Canada!

Burning Nerds meet-up at Burning Man, 2:30-5pm Fri., Sept. 2, 2011

Those of you who are interested in meeting other Burning Nerds, please take note:

Burning Nerds Meet Up on the Playa!

Media Mecca is hosting a meet up for Burning Nerds on the playa in the 2011. We did it last year and we’re doing it again! You are invited! Please join us!

When: Friday, September 2, 2011

Where: Ashram Galactica (8:00 and Engagement)

Time: 2:30pm-5:00pm

Enjoy cocktails and an afternoon mixer with the academics and scholars
of Black Rock City.

Do you teach, conduct or write or work with research? Do you wish you could?
Then you are a Burning Nerd!

Come join us for libations, entertainment and presentations:

The 2011 Environmental Assessment process-Learning how to research BRC.
Updates on the Census-new questions in 2011-Where they are from and why!
The 2011 Non-Profit of Burning Man. How might academics collaborate?

OPEN MIC-for Burning Nerds to share their research!

PLEASE join us and RSVP to academics [at] burningman [dot] com

Academics URL:

See you there!

Next stops: San Antonio and Vegas

August 2011 is the month for hot climates. I’m currently in San Antonio for the Academy of Management annual meeting and will soon be in Las Vegas for the American Sociological Association annual meeting.

Today, Thur., Aug. 12, 2011, 3-5pm CDT. I’ll be co-presenting with Prof. Tor Hernes, Copenhagen Business School, on using organizational ethnography to teach organizational design for the OMT Teaching Roundtables at the Academy of Management (AOM) annual meeting, San Antonio Convention Center: Room 216 A & B, San Antonio, TX. This is a description provided by Prof. Hernes:
“In this roundtable, I will describe an elective course for MS students at the Copenhagen Business School. The course typically enrolls ~80 students from 5-10 different countries (mostly Scandinavia). We use the book Enabling Creative Chaos, Katherine Chen’s ethnographic account of the development of the Burning Man event (2009). Using the book provides a common “empirical” basis for discussion in class, which is a way to compensate for the lack of organizational experience among the students who are typically age 23-27. The idea, rather than work from OD as the balancing of structure, culture, systems and technology (which is typically assumed), is to view OD as the ongoing attempts at framing the sense-making of organizational members. We work from OD as the combined use of various types of material, social and cognitive mechanisms that organizers employ as they are confronted with dilemmas of organizational growth and change.”

Sun., Aug. 21, 2011, 11:30-12:10am PDT. For my book Enabling Creative Chaos, I will be accepting Honorable Mention for the 2011 Max Weber Award of the Organizations, Occupations, and Work (OOW) Section of the American Sociological Association, OOW business meeting, at the American Sociological Association annual meeting, Caesers Palace in Las Vegas, NV.

Fun facts: Fellow Harvard grad student turned Northwestern professor Celeste Watkins-Hayes is also an Honorable Mention recipient, and Martin Ruef, who was a teaching assistant for my first organizations class at Stanford and now is a Princeton professor, is the winner for his book on entrepreneurship.

Burning Man Artist PR Web Seminar tonight 6pm PDT, Wed., July 13

You’ve worked long and hard on an art project or theme camp. How do you make sure that others learn about your work? Academics and artists alike eventually realize that toiling quietly in obscurity rarely results in public knowledge or recognition of hard work. On occasion, someone might literally trip over your work and be thrilled. But if others haven’t heard about your work, it’s likely that your work will languish like a gift that’s forgotten in the back of a closet – a great discovery, waiting to happen. You have the additional task of letting others know what you’re doing so that they can share your gift.

Tonight, Burning Man and the Los Angeles & Chicago communities are co-hosting a seminar on how to do public relations (PR). People can participate in a webinar or in person. Here’s the original announcement:

“Burning Man Artist PR Web Seminar

Dear Burning Man/BRAF Artist:

For several months, we have been helping Burning Man honorarium recipient and BRAF grant recipient with public relations strategy and tasks. Now that we are in July, we want to invite you to the first ever Burning Man Artist PR Web Seminar.

It’s important to provide for good public relations when your art becomes real in the desert (or in your home town). Yet, many artists are so busy solving problems and managing their builds they lose the chance to shine the light of good PR on their work and teams.

Please join us on line next Wednesday, July 13, at 6pm (Pacific time; 9pm Eastern time) for a special web cast to help you keep your date with fame.

Live from Los Angeles, Athena Demos will moderate a panel of experts who know public relations and know the playa.

We will also have conversations with Burning Man mangers and experts who can help you think through your strategy for pre-burn PR, on-Playa efforts, and post-burn communications to your team, your support base and the world.

Tune in by going to on Wednesday at the appointed time.

Or join us LIVE in LA at The Red Loft. Doors open at 5:30pm. Bring snacks to share. 440 Seaton St., Los Angeles, CA

You may want to be sure you have a team member also watching, because you may want someone watching out for your PR opportunities while you lead your team.

This is a production of the Burning Man Media Team, the LA Burning Man community and the Chicago Burning Man Community.

This is a gift from all of us to you.

Thank you for all you are doing right now.

See you Wednesday.”

Collaborative Intelligence Seminar- 10am EDT Thur., July 7, 2011 at SUNY Stony Brook

Prof. Todd Pittinsky at SUNY Stony Brook sent me the following info for those of you who are in the New York City/Long Island area and are interested in learning how to set up effective teams.

“The LI Infragard Alliance, the Metropolitan Area College & University
Security Consortium, and the Department of Technology and Society,
Stony Brook College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
will be
cosponsoring a talk by Professor J. Richard Hackman, Department of
Psychology, Harvard University. The talk will be held at the Wang
Center at Stony Brook University
on Thursday, July 7th.

This event will begin at 10:00 AM with coffee and networking. The
program will start at approximately 10:30 AM with introductory remarks
by Suffolk County Police Department’s Deputy Chief Mark White,
Homeland Security and Anti- Terrorism. The program is expected to
conclude by 12:30. Register via the link provided below.

Wang Center Lecture Hall 2:
10:00 am: Light breakfast sponsored by The Security Consortium
10:30 am: Introductory remarks: Suffolk County Police Department
Deputy Chief Mark White and Todd Pittinsky, SBU
10:45-11:45: J. Richard Hackman and open Q&A

About the Speaker:
Professor J. Richard Hackman serves on the Intelligence Science Board
of the Director of National Intelligence. He is the Edgar Pierce
Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard
University and a leading expert on group dynamics, team performance,
leadership effectiveness, and the design of self-managing teams and

Professor Hackman will speak to the subject of his most recent book
Collaborative Intelligence, Using Teams to Solve Hard Problems,
Lessons from and for the Intelligence Community
. Intelligence
professionals are commonly viewed as solo operators, but these days
intelligence work is mostly about collaboration. Interdisciplinary
and inter-organizational teams are necessary to solve the really hard
problems intelligence professionals face. This book and talk draws on
recent research findings as well as Professor Hackman’s own experience
as an intelligence community researcher and advisor, to show how
leaders can create an environment where teamwork flourishes.

Who Should Attend:
Although crafted for intelligence, defense, crisis management, and law
enforcement professionals, the talk will also be valuable for
improving team success in all kinds of leadership, management,
service, and production teams in business, government, and nonprofit

To register for this free event, please click this link.

What to do with the “bad” team/group member?, part II

This past weekend, I joined over 50 other researchers and practitioners at a conference held at the Harvard Business School in J. Richard Hackman‘s honor. To celebrate several decades’ worth of research on group and teamwork, we divided into groups to collectively discuss and identify directions for future research in particular areas. We then presented our findings or recommendations to the larger group.

Here’s a sample of our preparations for our topic on “Performing in real time: What is special (or especially interesting) about artistic performances and athletic competitions, with special attention to the dynamics of real-time improvisation”:

Groupfest, 6/10/11

Our claim: we can benefit from understanding a major variation among artistic and athletic groups: level of practice – some might say preparation – leading up to performance – such as a game or concert. Some groups don’t practice together at all, like improvised jazz or pick up basketball; others practice in moderation, like community orchestras or athletic groups; a few practice intensively, like professional athletic teams and orchestras. This variation in level of practice can help us also understand other groups that practice/prepare for conventional or unusual situations, such as disaster preparedness.

To illustrate our points, we co-presented the material while accompanied by improvised jazz by Daniel Wilson on the drums and Colin Fisher on the trumpet.

Another group discussed the topic “dealing in real time with “bad actors,” team members who are slowing team progress or undermining the team. Here’s their definition of a bad actor:
Groupfest, 6/11/11

They used two clips from the tv show The Office to illustrate their points. They then showed a 2 by 2 typology based on an actor’s position in the authority (low vs. high) and amount of power (too little vs. too much) to identify 4 categories of bad behaviors.

Interestingly, unlike the sessions at the 5th annual Burning Man Regional Leadership Summit, the presentation was too short to offer tools for how to deal with actors who engage in these behaviors. I spoke with one of the group members afterwards, and she reported that although some of the group advocated moving the bad actor around to other groups in the hopes of a “better” fit, others worried that this would contaminate other groups with bad behavior. This suggestion of moving a person around to different groups sounds a little like what Burning Man organizers call “repurposing.” However, in the Burning Man organization, repurposing may be more about making sure that volunteers’ interests fit the task/group. For more on this, see chapter 4 “Radical inclusion”: Attracting and Placing Members of my book Enabling Creative Chaos.

FIGMENT 2011 in NYC and elsewhere

Looking to enjoy collaborative art minus the desert dust? Like the idea of being able to pedal or rollerskate around between art installations? Want to contemplate the current state of affairs with a view of the Statue of Liberty? The annual arts event FIGMENT in NYC will take place, rain or shine, starting this Fri., June 10 through Sun., June 12 at Governors Island. FIGMENT is free and family friendly. (However, like Burning Man, furry friends have to chill at home). For information on hours and the free ferry that departs from downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, go here.

Brush up on FIGMENT’s principles here.
Learn about FIGMENT’s organization here.

Not in NYC? Detroit will have its own FIGMENT on Aug. 6th. Click here for more info.

What to do with the “bad” team/group member?

This June, more than 50 colleagues and I will be participating in a special conference sponsored by the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, the Center for Public Leadership, and the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard University. This conference honors one of my advisors, J. Richard Hackman, a foremost expert researcher in teams. To identify the conditions that encourage effective teamwork, Hackman studied groups including commercial flight crews and the Orpheus chamber orchestra, which does not rely upon conventional leaders but rather collective decision-making by the group. Besides numerous journal articles and co-authoring the seminal book Work Redesign with Greg Oldham, Hackman has also written the book Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances, which walks readers through the steps of creating and running successful teams.

In addition, Hackman has been highly influential in mentoring and teaching organizational researchers such as myself about how to create organizations that are both meaningful and serve members’ interests. In fact, Hackman has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of my research on Burning Man, which when I first started my field studies, was a mystifying phenomena to most (i.e., at the time, most reactions consisted of “Burning What?!? Is this like the movie Wicker Man?”).

When I initially signed up for this June gathering, I anticipated sipping bubbly over small talk in the hallowed halls of HBS. I soon learned that the conference, dubbed the “Hackfest,” involves working in teams to troubleshoot challenges to teamwork. One issue that we’ll discuss involves “Dealing in real time with “bad actors,” team members who are slowing team progress or undermining the team.” Those of us who manage/work/volunteer in groups inevitably encounter this dilemma. Since most of us are not trained or coached on how to work effectively in groups, we often deal with this challenge through trial and error, with a heavy emphasis on error.

We may not recognize instances in which participants may have different goals or processes in mind and label these persons or their activities as bad rather than understanding their underlying motivations – “undermining” might be one participant’s way of checking groupthink or pursuing an end other than efficiency. For example, some people complain when meetings get derailed by small talk or discussions that don’t lead to tangible outcomes. What we often don’t realize is that meetings aren’t just tools for getting things done; they also serve as social occasions where the collective comes together. On the other hand, we do occasionally encounter individuals who are having a bad day or have a chip on their shoulder; their participation can derail or impede group processes despite our best efforts.

Interestingly, back in May, Burning Man regional leaders at the 5th Annual Burning Man Leadership Summit discussed a similar issue, “How do we deal with divisive personalities while still supporting radical inclusion?”* This and other issues provoked feverish but enthusiastic brain-storming, much of which drew on an earlier workshop on conflict resolution skills. I’ll be paying especially close attention to the “bad actors” discussion at the Hackfest to see whether what the experts suggest lines up with what Burning Man practitioners have proposed. (BTW, in his book Leading Teams, Hackman also recognizes the value of including even seemingly “difficult” individuals.)

*Note that the summit’s wording uses the word personalities, which connotes that this behavior is inherent to a person, rather than the conference’s word actors, which emphasizes activities. Organizational researchers like myself prefer not to use terms like personalities, as we focus on how activities emerge from interactions or situations. For example, all of us have occasionally acted as a “wrench in the machine” by questioning the status quo, but most of us would not characterize ourselves as being inherently divisive.

Get involved FIGMENT in Boston

Looking for Burning Manesque events in your community? Events like FIGMENT are looking for contributors and supporters. Please see the announcement below.

FIGMENT Boston, the interactive, non-commercial arts event happening on June 4th & 5th on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston needs your help. FIGMENT relies entirely on donations and grants to put on its amazing events, with no sales or corporate sponsorships. You can help by donating to our IndieGoGo campaign or by participating in Finding FIGMENT, a public art scavenger hunt and party on April 3rd.

1. Support FIGMENT Boston on

Indiegogo is a crowd-sourced fundraiser that’s raised millions of dollars for creative projects of all kinds. Donations to FIGMENT Boston made through Indiegogo are tax deductible—and you can get some great gifts, including handwritten thank-you notes suitable for framing, entry into a drawing for a piece of art by a FIGMENT Boston artist, a private cocktail party with FIGMENT organizers, and even having the FIGMENT Boston team throw a party at your house!

Please help us spread the word by attaching the widget to your website, telling your friends about it, or sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. Also make sure to click on the Feature It link on the bottom right, to help FIGMENT Boston get promoted on the IndieGoGo homepage.

2. Finding FIGMENT: April 3, 2011

We’re bringing FIGMENT to some of Boston’s known (and lesser known) artistic treasures for an all-day journey into the creative mind. Join us for Finding FIGMENT on Sunday, April 3, 2011.

Starting at 1pm, Finding FIGMENT kicks off with an all-ages public art photo scavenger hunt throughout Boston. Teams will be judged on…imagination. (Make sure you bring a digital camera to take pictures.) Winning teams will receive cash and more when we…

Head to the Wonder Bar (134 Harvard Ave, Allston, 02134) at 7pm for an evening of auditory artistry with some of Boston’s most dynamic DJs and artists (21+). Check out the Finding FIGMENT page for the full line up.

Click Here for Scavenger Hunt Tickets: $25 per person. (Includes admission to the Wonder Bar after party)

Click Here for After Party Tickets: $15 in advance / $20 at door

For more about the event, visit the FIGMENT Boston website. For more information, please email

Be a part of FIGMENT Boston

Submit Art (deadline is April 15)


Explore More:
On the web:
On Facebook:
On Twitter: @FIGMENTBoston”