Last week, Matt McFadyen, Taylor Woodley, and Amy Posey traveled to a client in Dallas, Texas, to run a 1-day program about Building Resilience. As part of the session, the team facilitated our Reach for the Summit immersive learning.
The participants were a group of high achieving technology consultants who were interested in practical tips around growing their capacity for resilience. Like most participants in our programs, they expected a practical and useful session. They wanted foundational information on the topic and immediately useful tips they can apply that same day.
Often, clients planning a meeting, training session or event for their teams ask us (usually with some degree of skepticism), “will my high performing team benefit from spending the day climbing a hypothetical mountain?” We’ve had more than our fair share of these conversations—and not just about mountains, really, about all of our adventure themes.
I understand the skepticism. The concept is different. Often, we equate different with weird and push it away. It’s contradicts what people expect of a learning program.
But here’s the thing—in order to do different things like innovate, gain perspective, and change behaviors, doing something different can actually accelerate those processes. Changing someone’s mental model or context briefly can spark powerful a-ha moments about how they perform in their day-to-day reality.
Here are 3 ways adventure simulations work well for any audience:
- Provide variety and excitement: How many times have you been genuinely excited about a meeting? No, like REALLY excited? Or a training session? You can probably count that number of times on one hand. Taking a risk and doing something different and immersive is refreshing. It can be fun while it’s being focused on accomplishing your goals. It changes things up and can give a group a much-needed fun boost. People will pay attention. They’ll put their phones and laptops and tablets away and actually focus.This sense of novelty is exciting for participants. Unlike traditional “corporate fun” like happy hours or standard team building, this also comes with useful skills and reflection. Things your people can take away and use immediately.
- Emotionally engage people in a different way: I see it so often—we neglect the emotional engagement of people at work. We just assume it will happen because you assemble a group of people in a room. Yes, sometimes it does happen by magic, but wouldn’t you rather use something that has been tested and proven to engage people emotionally? Immersing people in teams to accomplish goals that are outside of the scope of their regular business allows people to bond over a positive shared experience.
Connecting people with vivid content and visuals engages people much differently than standard training content. Getting them connected to human stories, powerful landscapes, and a journey that a team goes on together engages their brains emotionally and rationally, which actually causes them to remember the information in the session for a much longer time and with more depth and strength of recall.
- Tackle the “soft stuff” of behavior conversations more effectively: Talking about behaviors, communication, and leadership using your own content can sometimes feel like a reprimand. Or being talked down to—we should all “know” these things. We “tell” each other to behave and communicate in certain ways, and when we don’t, those reminders can sting. When you put people in a different context and play out behaviors and communication in that context, you can make some astute self-observations that draw parallels to your business. It lessens the condescending and sensitivity to discuss them in the context of a mountain climb or surf competition because it’s not as “close to home” and easier to work through recurring or repeated behaviors. Seeing the results and consequences of decisions and effective communication plays out and reinforces the person’s experience. It anchors the behavioral reminder and methods and allows people to continue the hard conversations after the program because those barriers have been dropped.
Our session with the technology consulting group last week was very successful—in fact, the emotional engagement of the group was stronger than what we typically see. Many had mentioned it was the best training session they have had with the company. This group attends well-designed training on a regular basis. Their bar is high. Perhaps because they use their business context as a foundation for the majority of their content, we provided a novel way of thinking about their decisions, communication, and relationships. Simulations work. By changing their mental models, the group had the opportunity to acquire fresh perspectives and relate it back to their business contexts in a new way.