Campfire Generosity

by cv harquail on December 21, 2015

A little story I’m using to illustrate Generosity At Work —

campfire generosity

Three cowhands are setting up camp on a chilly night. While one builds the campfire and the second gets water for the horses, the third takes command of the saddles. He drags each one to the far side of the fire pit, lines them up in a curve, and builds a wall that closes off half of the circle.

“What are you doing?”, the first cowhand asks him.

“I’m making sure no one else gets the benefit of our camp fire.”

As absurd as this scenario seems out on the range, it illustrates the standard operating procedure in the world of business.

Businesses build resources, tools, events, ideas and more that are so big and powerful that they can’t use all these resources by themselves. Yet, businesses go to great lengths to wall off these resources from anyone else.  They don’t want any other business to benefit from what they’ve made for themselves, even if it means that valuable heat, light, insight, expertise and more go to waste.

Would it hurt the cowhands to leave their fire circle open, in case a few others show up? Would it be so wrong to leave a space for a raccoon, some meerkats, or even a stray dog to crawl up nearby and enjoy the warmth? Would offering some of their campfire to cowhands from another ranch make these cowhands any less able to do their jobs, to care for their cattle, and to make a profit for their ranch at the end of the season?

There is no cost, no harm done, in sharing the campfire. Yet, what could be rays of light and heat to warm someone else’s journey gets blocked by businesses that are unable even to think of sharing. They are too convinced they have to protect what’s “theirs”, even when they can’t profit from hoarding it. Even when it takes real energy to drag the saddles round to set up a wall.


When I bring up the idea of businesses being generous by sharing with each other, usually the first question is — why would a business want to give their secrets away?  But that’s not what we’re talking about with generosity at work.

Generosity At Work isn’t dumb sharing, where a business gives in ways that could ultimately come to hurt it.

And, it’s not dumb hoarding, where a business holds on to or blocks off other’s access to resources that business can’t use up by itself.

Generosity At Work is smart and thoughtful — it offers what’s easy to share, easy to replenish, and helpful to others.

When your business is generous in its work, you’re not walking away from the fire you built for yourself, or even giving away your firewood to someone else.

You’re simply letting others sit in the open spaces of your campfire, or letting the light and heat go out through the open space to reach whomever might benefit from it.


Image: Campfire Generosity by  (…I’m looking for a link so you can purchase a copy from Holstee’s site…)

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