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Fraser Jones

OnTrack International

Marketing Manager

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BBC: The Apprentice – Away Days, 5 rules to follow…


A recent post from our Outdoor Development expert, Robert Alp in response to last nights episode. (We would also welcome people to build on his points if you feel relevant?):

Having worked for over a decade in the arena of outdoor development I watched last night’s episode of The Apprentice with a mixture of pity and horror! Pity because the candidates had little experience or idea how to design and deliver a corporate 'away day' that would meet the brief and objectives of their clients, and horror as the events unfolded and delegates became bored and switched off!

So where did this challenge go so wrong? Unfortunately there are many organisations offering team development events, corporate packages, call them what you will, that use activities that are unsuited to both the objectives of the event and the delegate group. How did wine tasting and a school theme (which was quickly forgotten) contribute to the delivery of the outcomes the client was looking for?

When working with corporate organisations any event like this must be completely focused on delivering tangible benefits for the delegates and the client. Clearly the teams in this episode were far more focussed on squeezing a profit to the detriment of the experience.

Let’s be clear; there is a place for a corporate fun day but if the focus is on driving improved individual and team effectiveness then all activities must link to this goal. There is also little point in hoping that in some way delegates will self-analyse and learn as was plainly the case in last night’s show. If there is a focus on learning then time must be made available for this to happen and it needs to be managed, preferably by experienced facilitators who can work with the delegates, helping them to reflect on what happened and what they can do as both individuals and a team to improve.

Here are five rules to help guide your experience toward success!

Rule 1

Work with an organisation that uses short experiential activities that can be mixed and matched to meet your objectives and outcomes. The activities must also include facilitated reviews making appropriate links to real business situations, to draw out key learning points and actions. Subsequent tasks then allow for practise and experimentation to help build confidence and competence!

Rule 2

Ensure total clarity and understanding of what you are trying to achieve and why. At OnTrack International we ask four critical questions;

1. What are you trying to achieve?

2. What symptoms are you looking to remove?

3. What risks do we need to avoid?

4. What resources do we need?

By asking these and many other related questions of the client, delegates and key stakeholders we can be sure that the solution we propose will meet objectives.

Rule 3

Engage with the group in the initial planning phase so that they feel part of the solution and they have some input into the type of activities being proposed.

Rule 4

Facilitated reviews help delegates learn and time needs to be made available during the event for them to capture key learning points and agreed actions. As a minimum this should happen before delegates leave by completing some form of personal or team action plan. This will ensure that delegates go away having made clear commitments to the next steps in their development journey.

Rule 5

Don't forget that team development days can and should be fun; we know that people learn best when they are enjoying the experience!

I am sure you (members of  will have more rules, guidelines or even a framework that could help prospective Outdoor Development organisers. Would anyone care to build on the 5 basic points above?

3 Responses

  1. Nice list

    Great recap of an episode that I found myself cringing at almost the whole way through.

    24 hours to set something up like this would test the experts so maybe I would add to your list that you should only accept work where you know you can meet the brief! 

    Also, I personally find that if you want to create an experience where people really learn, then the best thing you can do is create an experience where people become so absorbed in the activity that they behave entirely normally – because that is when the opportunity to really learn appears.

    I look forward to seeing what others have to say

  2. Thanks for the comment FrancesMF

    Very good point about timescales FrancesMF, we were perhaps a little harsh on the team members in that respect. As you point out though, a great lesson for everyone, set yourself up for success!

    Absorbing activity is another great addition. So important for people to behave naturally, thanks Frances!

    Any more?

  3. 🙂 Personally speaking,

    🙂 Personally speaking, apart from the jaw dropping frustration involved in watching this episode, I couldn't believe that these respected brands had allowed their people to waste their time by being involved in an event that was only there to be an 'eyebrow raising experience' given everything that sits behind being involved in an Apprentice 'challenge'.

    There is so much that goes into making any learning experience an 'effortless success' that anyone who has done this professionally knows there was never any doubt that it would be a disaster, albeit one that would make for great TV.

    I just wish it wouldn't serve to be a positive reminder that to make training worth every penny, you need to employ the professionals :-)))

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Fraser Jones

Marketing Manager

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