Business Lessons of the Grateful Dead


Recently, I wrote about the odd/grim news that certain deficit hawks in Congress have targeted a small federal grant to support the Grateful Dead Archive at the University of California at Santa Cruz (more about which here).

But I am happy to report that there is also some good news from the world of Grateful Dead scholarship. Barry Barnes, a business professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and a central character in my Dead piece, has a new book coming out this fall with Business Plus (an imprint of Grand Central Publishing) in which he expands on some of the ideas that he shared with me. It is appropriately titled, "Everything I Know About Business I Learned From the Grateful Dead: The Ten Most Innovative Lessons from a Long, Strange Trip," and John Perry Barlow has written the foreword. I have no doubt that it's going to be be great. There are no galleys available yet--although I did get them to send me a shot of the cover--but I plan to write more about the book and about Barry when it's available. In the meantime, here is the publisher's description of what to expect:

The Grateful Dead is one of the most popular bands of all time and they have enjoyed incredible relevance to this day. But let's admit it, they were not exactly poster boys for corporate America. In Everything I Know About Business I Learned From The Grateful Dead, Deadhead and business scholar Barry Barnes proves that the Dead's influence on the business world will turn out to be a significant part of their legacy. Without intending to, the band pioneered ideas and practices that were subsequently embraced by American corporations. And in this book Barnes shares the ten most innovative business lessons from the Dead's illustrious career, including:

-Creating and delivering superior customer value
-Incorporating and establishing a board of directors early on
-Founding a merchandising division
-Giving away your product for free to increase demand
-Learning do-it-yourself business by in-sourcing
-Creating a business tribe by collaborating with fans
Above all, Barnes explains how the Dead were masters of what he calls "strategic improvisation" -- the ability to adapt to changing times and circumstances -- and that their success lay precisely in their commitment to constant change and relentless variation. For an extraordinary thirty years, the Dead improvised a business plan and realized their vision - and ended up making huge profits.
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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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