Campfire leverages our natural storytelling tendencies by giving players a format and a space in which to share work stories—of trial and error, failure and success, competition, diplomacy, and teamwork. Campfire is useful not only because it acts as an informal training game, but also because it reveals commonalities in employee perception and experience.
- To share work related stories
Before the meeting, brainstorm 10–20 words or phrases you can use as trigger words to start the storytelling session. Write them on sticky notes. Keep the ideas positive or neutral: partnership, venture, first day, work travel, fun project, opportunity, and so forth.
- Post the sticky notes in the meeting room in a space visible to all the players and give them access to markers and more sticky notes. Tell them that this is a workplace “campfire” and the only thing they’re invited to do is share stories back and forth as an informal “company training program.” Show them the “wall of words” and ask them to take 1–3 minutes to look them over and recall a story associated with one of them. To help the group warm up, start the storytelling session yourself by removing one of the words on the wall and posting it in a space nearby. Then tell your introductory story.
- Ask for a volunteer to continue what you started by peeling another word from the wall and posting it next to yours. This begins the sticky-note “story thread.”
- Before the first player begins his story, ask him to read aloud the word he chose and then instruct the other players to listen carefully to his story and to jot down a word or phrase on a sticky note that reminds them of another work-related story. If no words in the player’s story jumped out at them, they are welcome to pull a sticky note from your original “wall of words.”
- After the player concludes the first story, ask for another volunteer to approach the wall and to either post their own sticky note or take one from the “wall of words.” Ask them to read their word aloud and to then share their story.
- Repeat this process until the players have created a snake-like “story thread” which acts as an archive of the campfire conversation. Use your best judgment to determine when to end the storytelling session. Before you “put out” the fire, ask the players if there are any lessons learned or final thoughts they want to add.
Note: Your role as the meeting leader is simply to encourage the sharing of work-related stories.
Tips for running this activity online
- Pick an online whiteboard tool that allows you to use a large, zoomable canvas.
- Add the 10-20 words or phrases which you’ve brainstormed as sticky notes on the virtual canvas. During each person’s turn, they can remove one of the sticky notes you added, or create their own in the canvas. The end result will be an online snake-like “story thread” as opposed to a physical one.
- If you’re not using an online whiteboard, we’d recommend using a collaboration tool such as Google Docs to share the words and phrases, and to allow the audience to input. Invite everyone into the document to share their ideas but be very clear in regards to editing rights.
- When facilitating group discussion, we recommend participants use non-verbal means to indicate they’d like to speak. You can use tools like Zoom’s nonverbal feedback options, a reaction emoji, or just have people put their hands up.The facilitator can then invite that person to speak.
This game was inspired by Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence (Rethinking Theory),by Roger Schank and Gary Saul Morson.