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Outdoor team development – the truth please?


Can outdoor team development make a tangible difference back at work....?  I've been thinking yes, of course it can, but how?  Sure, you can make sure your learning outcomes are robust and tuned in to the needs of the team and participants and people aren't just paying for a nice day out, but how do you make sure all that juicy learning doesn't just get stuck in time and perishes in the woods? 

Perhaps provide powerful anchors for people to relate to when they get back, a real souvenir that people can touch, or perhaps a real project that starts on the day and carries on back in work with appropriate context....

2 Responses

  1. Outdoor Team Development

    Some might say that my thoughts and comments within such a discussion might come from a biased perspective. Outdoor Team and Leadership Development is my livelihood, so of course I will say that it works well. 

    Others might say that because I see the power of this type of learning every week, I see results in terms of sustained changes in behaviour and I see the same clients come back again and again is the very reason I have chosen this career path.
    You, the reader, can take your pick!
    In order to ensure it is successful however, there are a number of prerequisites:
    1.      A comprehensive understanding of the outcomes required, including a solid understanding of what success in each area will look like back at work.
    2.      A sound partnership with the client / stakeholder throughout the process. As the situation on the ground alters, their in-depth knowledge of the participants’ unique work environment is essential in helping a facilitator to exploit those links.
    3.      Ensuring all commitments to action (team or individual) are followed up after the event. This keeps the event alive, but more importantly is key to ensuring behavioural change is happening.
    In addition I like James’ idea of anchors. Our participants tend to go away armed with goodies such as mugs, key rings and certificates. These all act as reminders of successes achieved or lessons learned during the experiential course.
    Jonathan Handcock
  2. Experiential Learning

     Hi James

    I’d like to agree with Jonathan’s comments around having clarity around outcomes and idenitfying the expectations for change back in the business.

    I find outdoor experiences make for fantastic metaphors in which people can place themselves – stories that burst into being from a particular experience – of course all the more powerful when it’s a combination of mind(thinking), body(action) and emotion. Whilst many learning experiences tap into one or two of the above, when you’re learning ‘real time’ – activating all of your wisdom: physical, emotional and intellectual, the learning really comes to life and if skillfully facilitated, can be directly relevant to where the team or business are or need to be. 

    One of the powers of outdoor learning is that feedback is immediate – if you’re not communicating clearly, the impact of that will be felt immediately (sometimes physically!). Participants get to experience themselves and others without the cloak of an ‘at work’ persona. I’ve been captivated by seeing peoples’ strengths, talents and thinking emerge from a workshop – the team sees them in a new light, with new possibilities for bringing more of that into the business.

    Of course, the fact that you’re having fun (and that’s also about gauging the appropriate abilities in the group) facilitates learning and the use of video and still images (which several of my clients have made into great montages that have been shown at conferences and put up in the canteen etc) helps keep the experience alive. 

    The leader also needs to commit to bringing the agreed actions and learnings into work, reminding people of their commitment and using their daily conversations to continually enliven people to possibility.

    Whether it’s a ropes course, white water rafting, sailing or a less physical experience, the purpose has to be to draw people’s attention to existing habits that might be getting in the way and to discover more appropiate, up to date habits for the time in which we’re doing business today and in the future.




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