5 Steps to Building a Company Campfire

For millennia our species have gathered around the campfire in the dark of night listening and telling stories that create and protect the tribe’s culture.  But for today’s remote and fragmented workplace; there is no common connection, there often isn’t a sense of an “us” in a corporate context, and those legendary stories can get lost or squandered if they aren’t captured and leveraged.  To put this more plainly – email isn’t cutting it.

What happens when there is no company campfire?  What’s at stake when a company’s culture isn’t protected, preserved, or actively enforced?  Culture collapse. As it turns out, the costs associated with a shabby company culture are considerable.  Turnover, poor engagement, lack of innovation and accountability, and specifically, earnings growth1 can be affected upwards of 28%.

 To build a Company Campfire you need to capture and then leverage stories.  The story is the most powerful tool we have for sharing the What, the Who, When and most importantly, the Why of a given episode.

Polly Wiessner’s 2014 study, “Embers of Society: Firelight Talk among the Ju/’oansi Bushmen,” used a group of former hunter-gatherers living in Namibia and Botswana, both just north of South Africa—as a window to our ancestral past.  What did she learn?  That stories bind us.  Stories related around the campfire are the linguistic resource for building a culture.

Here are the 5 steps to building your company campfire:

1.    Define your company culture.  Start with your Why and work outward to How and What and Who.  The values, beliefs, and expectations of your tribe are the bedrock of your culture.

2.   Capture the stories that represent it.  Interview and film various people in your company.  Founders, leaders, the people up and down the ladder and across the organization who live and breathe the values can be very helpful.

3.   Share them in context of activities where they are relevant. Attach stories to activities so learners can pair the insights of the story with a task.

4.   Engage and encourage your tribe to add their own. Solicit storytellers and engage them in the role as “culture keepers” by filming their tales and sharing.

5.   Make it trustable by making it relevant, timely and actionable. Good stories, like fables, legends and fairytales have a moral - a kernel idea that can serve the listener another time. Include those to make your stories stick.

 References

 1.      PeopleSpark, “There’s 2.5x More Revenue for companies with engaged employees” LinkedIn Slideshare.  PeopleSpark, 23 May 2015.  Web.

2.       Polly Wiessner, “Embers of Society: Firelight Talk among the Ju/’oansi Bushmen, Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2014 www.pnas.org