During Austin Kleone’s keynote at South by Southwest yesterday, he brought up the concept of Scenius, and it really got us talking after the presentation.
Scenius, genius coming from a collaboration of a group, culture or movement. Critical to support all amazing ideas and big thinkers. #sxsw
— Greg Swan (@gregswan) March 7, 2014
If you think about the world’s great geniuses (e.g., Einstein, DaVinci, Beethoven), many emerged from connected cultures, likeminded thinkers and an uplifting environment that helped them perfect/hone/achieve such great success.
It led me to look up this interview with Eno about the concept of Scenius.
MORE DARK THAN SHARK: Brian, could you reiterate your word “scenius” and perhaps tell us how, in times to come, we might evaluate that seed you’re trying to plant?
BRIAN ENO: So he’s asking about the word “scenius” – and I’ll expand a little bit on that word.
So, as I told you, I was an art student and, like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.
As I looked at art more and more, I discovered that that wasn’t really a true picture. What really happened was that there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving lots and lots of people – some of them artists, some of them collectors, some of them curators, thinkers, theorists, people who were fashionable and knew what the hip things were – all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work.
The period that I was particularly interested in, ’round about the Russian revolution, shows this extremely well. So I thought that originally those few individuals who’d survived in history – in the sort-of “Great Man” theory of history – they were called “geniuses”. But what I thought was interesting was the fact that they all came out of a scene that was very fertile and very intelligent. So 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.