Unless you live in Seat­tle, you prob­a­bly are not famil­iar with The Stranger, a week­ly news­pa­per in the state of Wash­ing­ton. I just found out about it as I was doing some fresh research on my pri­or blog on genius­es. I was sur­prised that the paper was found­ed by Tim Keck, one of the satir­i­cal genius­es behind The Onion. More than that, this small news­pa­per won a Puli­tiz­er Prize in 2012.

What brought me to The Stranger’s web­site, SLOG, was the immi­nent awards they are about to make in terms of cre­at­ing a list of artis­tic genius­es. See their 05 June announce­ment regard­ing the final­ists for this award and how they plan to fea­ture them this year. Here’s how they explain the lega­cy of this award, now in its 11th year:

Every fall since 2003, The Stranger has giv­en a check for $5,000 and an obscene amount of atten­tion to five artists in five dis­ci­plines. Also, cake — win­ners are noti­fied via cake. Some­times we reward achieve­ment. Some­times we reward promise. Some­times we reward insti­tu­tions. Some­times we reward shoe­string gueril­la groups. Some­times we reward peo­ple who need the mon­ey. Some­times we don’t.

It’s hard not to like a pub­li­ca­tion, or a city, that cel­e­brates genius — even if it is restrict­ed, in this sense, to the arts. Read­ing about their final­ists for 2013 made me recall the com­ment I made in an ear­li­er post:

Devel­op­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty fore­sense is as much a func­tion of indi­vid­ual mind­set (and col­lec­tive mind­set, or cul­ture) as it is of extrin­sic incen­tives like bonus­es, which are all too often the pre­ferred tools of lead­ers try­ing to jump-start growth and com­pet­i­tive­ness — usu­al­ly in the short run (this quar­ter, this half, or this year). Build­ing entre­pre­neur­ial mind­ed­ness takes time and large­ly “comes from with­in” and there­fore must be enabled by organ­i­sa­tions and their lead­ers by build­ing and sus­tain­ing the con­tex­tu­al (and intrin­sic) incen­tives that are both affec­tive and can be lasting.

The point I aimed to make my first post on this sub­ject was that moti­va­tion is key to some­one (or some firm) stiv­ing to be a genius in terms of shap­ing the future. The point I stress here is that Seat­tle and The Stranger seem to be mod­el­ling the behav­iour of cel­e­brat­ing the quest of being a genius. And while genius­es are, by def­i­n­i­tion, a cut above, what’s hap­pen­ing this sum­mer in Seat­tle is an open invi­ta­tion to its cit­i­zens to take note of its artis­tic genius­es and then to join them. As the pub­li­ca­tion notes:mind lightning

With the 2013 Genius Awards, we want to throw open con­ver­sa­tions, fire up debates, and cel­e­brate each of the art forms in ques­tion — along with all of the final­ists — all sum­mer long. To that end, please join us for FIVE NIGHTS OF GENIUS at the Frye Art Muse­um: a series of con­ver­sa­tions with every sin­gle one of the final­ists talk­ing about their work, held over the course of five con­sec­u­tive Wednes­days (July 24 – Aug 21). Get your tick­ets now at strangertickets.com. Then we’ll see you at the big-ass GENIUS AWARDS PARTY at the Moore on Sep­tem­ber 28 to toast the win­ners, and hear Seat­tle Rock Orches­tra, and dance, and gen­er­al­ly freak out. recommended

Per­haps some will find all of this some­what offen­sive to their con­cept of genius. The car­toon­ist Bill Wat­ter­son com­ment­ed that “Genius is nev­er under­stood in its own time.” And many seem to pre­fer that the des­ig­na­tion of “genius” be with­held for only the most rar­efied of achieve­ments and then only when the achiev­er has stopped being pro­duc­tive (or died).

On the oth­er hand, I am won­der­ing now whether some of our organ­i­sa­tions don’t have a thing or two to learn from Seat­tle’s “genius­fest”. What if the bright­est, the zani­est, the most far-sight­ed, the most unre­strict­ed thinkers in your firm could be iden­ti­fied, her­ald­ed and engaged by as many peo­ple in the firm as pos­si­ble? Even more, what if such peo­ple from oth­er places and con­texts (per­haps some of the 2013 Seat­tle genius win­ners) were import­ed into your enter­prise to do the same thing: share thoughts open­ly, chal­lenge and inspire?

Our world might be a far bet­ter place if we worked hard­er to find genius­es in every dis­ci­pline and then share the light­ning in their thinking.

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