One of the most common problems that companies face today is selecting a genuine outward bound training (OBT) vendor from the plethora of so-called “OBT” programmes on offer. So-called because very often these programmes, far from being real training, are simply a picnic or other fun outdoor activity masquerading as OBT.
There is nothing wrong in taking teams outdoors for a get-together so that they can meet outside office and learn to bond better.
The problem lies in labelling these as OBTs because the latter are a different ball game altogether. Just because an activity is conducted outdoors, it cannot be defined as OBT.
What then is an OBT? These are programmes that specifically take participants out of their familiar settings and put them into unfamiliar and challenging situations that are especially structured to focus on specific training needs. A difficult situation or activity in itself, for instance a trek, is not enough. The activity or situation must be used by the facilitator as a tool to allow participants to discover the solutions in order for it to qualify as an OBT programme.
The most common mistake is to label any team or group activity as a “team-building event”. A team-building event is a specific type of OBT and has to be structured and facilitated carefully.
Some of the common ways to distinguish an outing or picnic from an OBT would be first, to see if the activity is just fun or if it also has a component of challenge or high perceived risk. Second, as if the event works for general unwinding and team bonding or if it acts as a formal learning platform.
Third, if the activities are not structured but flow randomly, it is a picnic and not an OBT.
Fourth, an OBT will subtly enforce participation by the very structure of the programme. Fifth, a real OBT will track scores, which will be later decoded by a trained facilitator.
And finally, an outing will not have any post-activity facilitation but an OBT draws out lessons and makes action plans using the post-session process review.
Thus, if companies have a specific HR issue to be addressed, it makes little sense to take employees on a picnic. Instead, a programme that is specifically structured to address the HR issue that needs resolving would be the way out.
(S.R. Roy is a Chennai-based OBT professional.)
A difficult situation or activity in itself, for instance a trek, is not enough. The activity or situation must be used by the facilitator as a tool to allow participants to discover the solutions in order for it to qualify as an OBT programme.