Over the last 12 months we have designed and delivered considerably more outdoor experiential learning programmes than at any point in the last decade, created at the request of our clients and a number at the request of the participants themselves.
This has taken us back to our roots – the Lake District is where it all began in 1995 – when the majority of our work was based around leadership development using the outdoors to facilitate and enhance learning.
Of course the theories, practices and methodologies have evolved since then, with new thinking rising to the challenges of team dynamics and the modern workplace but the outcome of learning when juxtaposed against rugged Lakeland fell or remote valley still resonate.
The impact of these outdoor-based programmes is evident from start to finish; participants returning fresh to their work with their new learning embedded and enthusiasm for the task ahead renewed. Even longer term, it is still not uncommon to hear recollections from lake shore or mountainside and how the skills learned are still prominent all these years later.
For Acorn, the purpose of outdoor experiential learning has always been to create engaging situations that enhance teamwork, promote communication and coaching skills in a safe and supportive (and often, very beautiful) environment. The combination of fresh air, physical activity and tackling new challenges with your colleagues is one which amplifies and greatly embeds the learning.
The programmes over the past year have broadly centred on supporting the needs within senior management and executive teams, with specific focus on:
- Enhancing communication and collaboration within the teams
- Providing insights into their own team working styles
- Improving leaders’ self-awareness, using 360 feedback reports
- Developing greater cohesion amongst the senior team leading the business
Achieving the objectives won’t just happen by throwing participants into a Bear Grylls survival scenario, nor are we advocating extreme thrill-seeking to enhance the experience; the programmes are created people-first, with activities throughout a residential period of 2, 3, 4 or 5 days depending on the requirement.
Programmes vary and can include: group problem-solving exercises, outdoor activities such as mountain biking, walking or abseiling and in-depth business focussed sessions, all allowing facilitated discussions in a safe supportive environment that would not occur in a classroom setting.
Is it ‘team building’? In our experience, teams are definitely stronger and more cohesive units after their time in the outdoors with Acorn.
Is it all about the experience? If you consider the programme, the engagement from the groups, the focused learning and the location where all this takes place then, yes, it is all about a very strong group experience.
Looking back on the year, the feedback received and update sessions with our clients, there is tangible progress in all the teams with individuals taking on initiatives unprompted, seeing them through to completion with positive results.
Improved team communication is also prominent, along with shared objectives and aligned (and often creative) thinking, all great signs for increased performance across any organisation.
We don’t intend to dramatically re-invent Acorn and focus purely on these type of outdoor-based programmes but it has been nothing short of wonderful to take our training programmes outside again.
If you’d like to find out more about the outdoor experiential learning programmes from Acorn, please just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to tell you more.
*We also choose our accommodation very carefully, preferably independently owned and operated, well appointed and if possible, exclusive use for our clients. Location is also key and we go for slightly more luxurious venues, rather than the mouldy bunk rooms of the past.