What would Jerry do?

Articles about the Grateful Dead have the inevitable snarky headline (Jerry Garcia: The Man, the Myth, the Area Rug – New York Times) and often try to trivialize what the band accomplished, or make the case that it was a unique occurence, something that will never happen again.

Of course, this is nonsense.

More than Campbell’s Soup or American Airlines or CAA or Cisco or McKinsey, the Grateful Dead is the template for how organizations are going to grow and succeed moving forward.

No, not every element of who they were and what they did, but the idea of conversations and open source, the idea of souvenirs and emotion and live events and of remarkability. The Dead sells through permission marketing, spread their music through an ideavirus and yes, as long as we’re slinging buzzwords, profits from the long tail.

The most important takeaway is this: They repeatedly did things that felt like huge risks, that challenged the status quo and that seemed, on their face, to give too much power to their audience. And in those moments, the Grateful Dead were at their most successful.