No Dungeons and Dragons in These Woods:
Adventure Challenge Course Improves Workplace Skills
|All too often, people hear about adventure challenge courses
and think they’re just fun and games, “like dungeons and
dragons,” says Michael Forrest, training consultant for OCC’s
Workforce Development Services (WDS).
But playing that popular video game is far removed from the
powerful “experiential education” that takes place at the
Buzzards Ridge Adventure Challenge Course in Lake Orion, Forrest
More than 1,000 individuals have participated in OCC’s adventure
challenges, learning firsthand the power of trust, confidence,
teamwork, strategic planning and communication in the workplace.
For the past two years – and with a 100 percent
safety track record - OCC has managed the General
Motors low-ropes adventure challenge course, providing
customized team-building adventures that
last up to three days for groups from businesses,
industries, churches and nonprofit agencies. OCC
has also offered adventure experiences to groups at Camp
Tamarack, and recently has begun taking a
modified adventure challenge program on the road
with portable equipment.
Each adventure experience is carefully structured, says Janet
Harp, program manager for WDS.
“Our facilitators work with a company before a
training expereince to find out what issues they
want to address, what challenges they may be facing and what
outcomes they’d like to see from
their adventure challenge. Then we tailor a program
to fit those requirements,” she says.
An adventure typically begins in the Buzzards
Ridge Lodge, as participants discuss and agree on
what they will accomplish during their time at the
course. A one-day adventure might include a series
of eight to 10 challenges carefully selected by facilitators,
each of whom has many years of experience in corporate training.
“Our six core trainers have more than 125 years of corporate
training experience among them,” Harp says.
Depending on the goals of the company and the
make-up of the group, facilitators can select
Prouty’s Landing is a well known team-building exercise in
which participants work together using a rope harness to swing
every team member across a “problem” area to “safety” on a 4 x 4
Participants at a Buzzards Ridge activity must deliberate
about getting each member of their team safely through a
different opening on the rope spider web without touching any
|activities from more than a dozen outdoor
challenges at Buzzards Ridge. A variety of “indoor”
team-building exercises is also available and includes such
activities as constructing a tower only from straws, paper cups
and six inches of duct tape.
One of the most famous - and popular - outdoor challenges is
Prouty’s Landing. In this exercise, participants are given a
scenario – for example a toxic spill – and must work together to
plan how they will use a rope harness to swing every team
member across the spill to the safety of an increasingly crowded
4 x 4 platform. “We make this segment of the adventure challenge
a choice,” Harp explains. “Some people jump right in and
participate, while others want to observe.
Whatever the challenge, our facilitators encourage all
participants to explore the outer boundaries of
their comfort zones, and to function as a team to plan and
complete each challenge.”
A debriefing follows each activity, and participants have an
“instant replay” option, Forrest adds, if they’ve thought of a
more successful way to work together to complete a challenge.
They also have an “instant rewind” option while the activity is
still going on. At the end of the day, a “wrap-around” session
with the facilitators allows participants to explore their
feelings about the day’s activities and translate their
experiences into practical applications at work. “Sometimes it’s
hard to measure the return on investment and the impact on
individual employees from this kind of training,” Forrest says.
“But when participants comment that they accomplished things
they never thought they’d be able to
do, or that they developed a rapport with someone they’d worked
next to for years but never interacted with before, that’s what
makes it worthwhile; then, we know we’ve planted the seeds of
teambuilding and trust, and that the employees have the power to
make those seeds grow.”