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Duane Hoover

Duane Hoover

Professor of Practice, Texas Tech University, Rawls College of Business
It was the Burning Man event in Nevada that sparked inspiration in TEDx speaker Duane Hoover.

Hoover is a professor in the area of Management at Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. He teaches courses that deal with organizational behavior, negotiation and leadership and has research interests in the psychology of learning and the sociology of experience. He said he had long been an admirer of the TEDx program, having attended a number of events and used a variety of TED Talks within his own courses.

“I thought it would be neat to participate,” he said of the TED program, “and then this year, at Burning Man, I was struck by how art can be a transformational experience.”

The pieces began to fall into place. Hoover had attended Burning Man events for some time, first as a visitor 17 years ago and then as a volunteer.  His two interests came together in that spark of inspiration last year.

Burning Man draws tens of thousands of people each year to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, where for one week, they form “Black Rock City.” This temporary mecca, according to the Burning Man website, is “dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.”

“I’m not a physical artist, myself,” Hoover said Burning Man, adding it drew 68,000 participants last year to spend a week together in the desert building beautiful wooden art projects that were then burned as part of the event.

He said he was amazed at how those artists could spend their time and talent on these works of art only to cast them into the flames, something he isn’t sure he could do. His own burning question became, “Why?”

Hoover set about to get his answer, video camera in hand. He said, ultimately, what he discovered was that these artists sought a “transformational experience” for those who viewed their art and its burning. He said the artists he interviewed wanted to create not just an art piece, but an experience that allowed those viewing their work to just be themselves.

“They were creating an opportunity, a blank slate if you would,” he said.

Their hope, according to Hoover, was to produce a “space” that would be transformed into a “place” when the participant stepped inside, so to speak, imbuing the piece with purpose and personalized meaning. His TED Talk will focus on that experience, using photos from the 2013 Burning Man event and excerpts from those field interviews.

For Hoover, participation with the Burning Man event and community had already had a transformational effect of its own. Having had an academic career, followed by 20 years as a private entrepreneur, and now back in a classroom, Hoover is using his experiences in both worlds to become a writer on the topic of leadership and change.

He said he never thought he would become an artist, and now he is. In addition, his interest in that “transformational experience” has also bled over into his study of learning theory and personal change as it relates to academic orientation.

And with his chance to stand on a TEDx stage, another desire has been fulfilled as well.

“This is one of the things I was hoping to be able to do,” he said, not quite equating the opportunity to a bucket list entry. “It’s definitely a notch on my belt of accomplishments.”

Watch his TEDxTalk.