How to Not Be the Fyre Festival in Two Easy Steps

If you pay attention to the world through the lens of your phone, then you probably already know about the Fyre Festival, or more accurately, #fyrefestival. You already know that a team of entrepreneur-types, online “influencers,” and musical acts convinced a crowd of people to pay thousands of dollars for a music festival that deteriorated into a giant disappointment. Promised villas turned into flooded emergency tents. Instead of people posting Instagram stories filled with beautiful people and beaches, and yes, magical pigs, people posted their stories of abandonment and embarrassment, stuck in airports with no flights, and fields with no toilets.

If you’ve followed the story from its humble beginnings as a hashtag to its treatment in two different documentaries, then maybe you already know the talking points. Many have seen the story as a microcosm of a larger story, particularly the millennial struggle of living life online and trying to measure up. As a Gen Xer, I confess that I watched the documentaries partly as field research, trying desperately to understand a world that paid Kendall Jenner a giant pile of money to post one picture on her social media profile. In fact, lots of people have watched both Netflix and Hulu’s documentaries simply to indulge in the timeless practice of seeing people suffer at the precise moment they were supposed to be on the top of a game. Almost every article on the Fyre Festival and the ensuing documentaries includes the word “Schadunfreude.” This is a story that is there to help us feel better about ourselves.

But when stories like this capture our imagination and our conversation, it’s worth using them as a mirror too. Here are a couple of questions worth asking around all our respective offices and social media feeds so we don’t become the next encapsulation of what’s wrong with the world:

-Are we receptive to negative feedback?

At least a part of the Fyre Festival failure seems to be the way optimism intoxicated everyone involved. The documentaries are filled with people who said they tried to raise concerns and warn people but no one listened. Feedback was shut down in meetings, through emails, and online. Many of us long to be “solutions-centered” at the expense of listening to fair objections. As our own Sarah Topp said after watching the docs, “You have to listen to your Wet Blankets.” This doesn’t mean that criticism always gets the last or loudest word, but it has to be welcomed and heard somewhere.

-Do we value both the dreaming and the doing? The substance and the style?

One of the most quoted lines from the Fyre Festival recounting comes from one of the interviewees in the Netflix account: “Instead of thinking about models, you’ve got to think about toilets.” We know in our own team that we need the people with the big ideas and the people who can do the math of the ideas. We know we need to bring design, but also deliver. It can be easy to glamorize one over against the other. But we are all better served when people with different areas of focus and passion are at work.