The Superior Benefits of Adventure Based Development Programs

Why you should choose an adventure based program for your next corporate leadership event

James Castrission is an Australian explorer, keynote speaker, author and entrepreneur.

This week he talks about why he started the MyAdventure Group, offering Australia’s premier adventure based corporate development and incentive programs.  

I’m a two time Guinness World Record holder, who was part of the first team to kayak across the treacherous Tasman Sea, from Australia to New Zealand. Then backed that up with the first unsupported journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back again. At no stage did travelling so far beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone feel easy or natural to me. At times, I questioned whether I was just running away from life. But the result of each journey was a new trajectory and completely refreshed understanding of who I was as a person.

After this journey, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I had learned. It is impossible to go through an intensely challenging experience without it adjusting your perspective on life. During this time some vital pieces fell into place and I realised that for humans, adventure is not just about getting an adrenaline high, it is essential. Growth, as I have learned, comes as a result of pushing yourself further than you thought you could go.

…It is impossible to go through an intensely challenging experience without it adjusting your perspective on life.

I realised that through my own adventures, I had actually developed my abilities to tackle complex challenges, make strategic decisions in ambiguous situations, and collaborate and learn with those in my team. It occurred to me that these are precisely the attributes desired in modern organizational leaders and the seeds of MYADVENTURE Group began to germinate.

The Superior Benefits of Adventure Based Development Programs
Shared Wisdom Is Better

You may be thinking, “that’s all very well James, you were developing these traits out on the frontier of survival, but can this really be replicated through business and corporate adventure programs?”

In fact, researchers have discovered that corporate leadership training based on adventure programs can indeed translate into the kinds of benefits that I received from my own survival experiences.

While studying the benefits of a corporate adventure program, one group of researchers  found, in the data, heightened sense of motivation, trust, commitment, and loyalty amongst employees towards the organization. The executives indicated the opportunity to engage in an outdoor adventure learning experience created stronger relationships of trust among participants and commitment to the company, thus strengthening these qualities in the corporate culture.

At the same time, research has identified that many of the leadership development programs in use today don’t seem to work, despite the fact that they cost billions of dollars each year. It seems that in general they fail to help people develop the kinds of dynamic, collaborative leadership skills required for today’s work.

In sharp contrast, one type of employee development that bucks this trend is Adventure experience programs where people develop and refine their leadership as they and their team navigate the interpersonal and physical challenges of completing outdoor adventure activities.

The Superior Benefits of Adventure Based Development Programs

Researchers from John Hopkins University Mike Doyle and Professor Christopher Myers found that, “By forcing people to work collaboratively, develop new skills, and take control of their decisions and outcomes, the austere environment can help expose key facets of leadership and team interaction that might otherwise be overlooked in ‘normal’ settings where the environment is comfort controlled. In other words, in familiar, ‘home’ base environments, people will always act in habitual ways and follow practiced patterns of personal safety. This is understandable but unfortunately eliminates the necessary risk factors needed for personal and corporate leadership growth.

Let’s talk about three great benefits that corporate teams can receive from Adventure based development and incentive programs.

Complex, unfamiliar experience

An adventure program naturally places people in unfamiliar environments that require them to adopt new skills and ways of interacting to be successful. People are forced to stretch themselves as they work with their team. Through their studies, Myer and Doyle have concluded that, This novelty unlocks opportunities for people to step up in new ways and reveal untapped aptitudes and attitudes that can bolster their leadership.” They also comment that more conventional development programs don’t seem to achieve this result: “Though informative, these structures miss an opportunity to expand beyond what the person already knows how to do and hone their leadership for new environments.”

Purposeful Engagement

Engaging in an adventure activity requires a level of engagement and intentionality that more ‘normal’ development programs simply don’t draw out of participants. Often employees in regular programs are still checking emails, answering calls and generally still have their minds on their workplace activities.  Being in a remote outdoor location enables them to engage more thoughtfully in their experience and draw potentially unexpected insights about leadership and behavior — both their own and others.

Furthermore, employees often seek to use it as an opportunity to step back and learn from others’ leadership. This facilitates corporate leadership growth since people have a chance to assess, modify and expand their own leadership skills in relation to other leaders in a real life setting.

Continuous, multisource feedback

The work of an adventure itself provides excellent feedback – the team ends up where it intended to be on the map (or doesn’t),  and everyone completes the obstacle course with the help of each team member.

This continuous practice of feedback-giving generally creates a team norm of open discussion and honest appraisals of how people experience an individual’s leadership in positive and negative ways. These ongoing interactions also engender a sense of vulnerability and trust in the group that builds camaraderie and reliance that lasts long after the adventure ends. 

MyAdventure Group invites people of all backgrounds and skill levels to challenge themselves amongst some of Australia’s most breathtaking and beautiful landscapes. The feedback we have received has been perhaps the most exciting part of my entrepreneurial journey.

I would love the opportunity to discuss how MyAdventure Group can design an adventure based development and incentive program to meet your team and leadership improvement targets in ways that blow your best expectations through the roof!