Two clients in the last month described the process of keeping their clients as 'building brick walls around them'. It evoked in me a clearer understanding of how I instinctively assess organisations and individuals. Do they build brick walls or camp fires? Each description evokes a felt response in me. I don't want to have a wall built around me and I like the idea of sitting round a camp fire with other people. One intimidates, one excites.
Interestingly, it has become for me a very accurate way of talking with others about what works and what doesn't in their organisations and their professional lives. We all recognise the need for enough structure to support progress and growth, and we all know instinctively when we feel frustrated, oppressed or overwhelmed by too much of it. Though we all have different thresholds, so far everyone I have spoken to has got the metaphor.
Building campfires is as much about the spirit that it evokes in those who sit around them with you, as it does about the process of building and maintaining them. It helps define the process as part art and part sience. Good fires are built in a specific way, but the experience of sitting around one and talking with others is intangible and unforceable.