Lessons from the great outdoors

Experiential training takes teams from the concrete jungle and into a literal jungle. The unfamiliar surroundings spark a spirit of adventure and team members have to depend on each other to overcome the challenges, building relationships and empathy.

Management training – the type led by a trainer at the company boardroom or a hotel – is often uninspiring. A strong team culture or leadership cannot be built effectively by sitting around a table. Experiential training – the type offered by outward bound training firms – cultivates leadership and teamwork by taking companies to unfamiliar surroundings and getting them to work through challenges together. Outward bound training was started by naval officers – borrowing practices from the navy, army and paratroopers – to prepare young people for adulthood. Around a quarter century ago, it started being used to build leadership and teamwork in private firms. In a typical program, participants are divided into small groups under the guidance of an instructor. The group first trains for outdoor recreational activities, before heading off on an expedition that has obstacles to be overcome only by working as a team.We’ve listed some organizations that offer this training at locations around Sri Lanka.

An ‘Outward bound’ authorized trainer
Outward Bound Trust Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Business Development Centre
Barnes Place,
Colombo 08
2 565 607

OBT-story-image-7‘Outward bound’ is a trademark registered by Outward Bound International, a global body that establishes and supports Outward Bound centres worldwide to provide safe and high-quality training programs. Its licensed operator in Sri Lanka, Outward Bound Trust Sri Lanka (OBTSL) was incorporated in 1990 and partners the Sri Lanka Business Development Centre to conduct training programs.

Outward Bound International is the largest independent, non-profit, outdoor educational organization globally, and reviews OBTSL’s equipment safety, material and training courses every two years. The global outfit also trains OBTSL staff.

The company tailors sessions for corporations in Sri Lanka with activities in line with Outward Bound International’s rules and regulations. The programs focus on objectives like situational leadership
communication and teamwork. The activities are followed by a debriefing where participants discuss how to apply what they learnt in an office environment or in their personal lives.

OBTSL’s training is conducted in three training centres – Dambulu Oya Family Park Hotel in Dambulla, Wayamba Training Centre in Wariyapola and at Loadstar’s training centre in Kalutara. However, rafting, rock climbing and sailing activities are conducted in other locations.

Helping organizations assess and address productivity issues
361 De grees
Sri Gnanendra Mawatha,
Na wala
5 833 331

OBT-2-story-imageAccording to 361 Degrees (formerly known as Wild Drift), making employees happy and productive involves three crucial areas – competency, passion and congruence, to which they claim to provide a holistic solution. Companies face the issue of a lack of competence when people do not have the capabilities to fulfill their role in the organization. Secondly, people cannot fulfill their tasks if they are not passionate about what they do or about the company. Finally, once both these problems are addressed, individuals need to be aligned with the organization’s culture, processes and policies. This is how 361 Degrees’ ‘six delta model for inspiring change’ can benefit corporates. The model assesses how participants feel about themselves and their colleagues, and helps to create a bond and come out of a departmental mentality to deliver value to the organization. They are also able to discover their mission as a team.

Training your inner being
Wild Holidays
Captain Sumudu Rajapaksa Mawatha, Dehiwala,
Mount Lavinia
2 761 216/2 761 101

Travel company Wild Holidays’ unit Inward Bound conducts programs at their purpose-built training facilities in the outskirts of Colombo (Thotupola) and in the hilly terrain of Sri Lanka’s Uva province (Ella Jungle Resort and Ella Jungle Inn). Although it is essentially outdoor training, these programs focus on the inner, where the real change happens, according to the operator. In addition to nature and adventure, Inward Bound includes activities around music and meditation as a means of uniting the body and mind in a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Participants are encouraged to connect with each other and with the environment. Inward Bound provides opportunities for participants to discover their individual and collective strengths and weaknesses. Raft building teaches the importance of teamwork and planning, and the aerial rope course builds self confidence and risk taking ability. Their team of instructors, all of whom have a military background, is led by Founder Major Vijith Welikala.

Breaking the ice is only the first step
High Five Consultancy and Training
Pepiliyana Road, Nugegoda
0718 334 334

OBT-Story-image-5“Nine out of ten organizations do these programs to break the ice, but unless it is backed by a strategic teaching, you will achieve nothing,” explains Vidusha Nathavitharana, founder and lead trainer at High Five Consultancy. The High Five team does not conduct trainings unless it has a wider application for the organisation.

High Five has Sri Lanka’s only business stimulation – an experiential learning activity where participants mimic running a business in a volatile environment. Vidusha says experiential learning can be applied to anything, even formal education. High Five Consultancy runs outdoor training for a variety of groups, from the World Bank to the UN, from MAS to Hirdaramani and NGOs, from the Ministry of Education to schools.

Training via a high rope course, paintball shooting and kayaking
Beyond Boundaries
Fairfield Gardens, Colombo 08
071 0662 266

OBT-3-stiry-imageBeyond Boundaries started in 2000 and, according to Founder and MD Anuruddha Bandara, is the only company with its own network of adventure training centres and camps islandwide. The company’s first training centre in Belihuloya, Beyond Boundaries Adventure Centre is still their most popular, purpose-built training site.

It can house 80 participants and has Sri Lanka’s longest high rope course. The high rope course is suspended 30 feet above the ground in a wilderness setting and comprises seven challenges including ‘toddy tapper’ and ‘Burma bridge’. The camp also has its own a paintball arena; and kayaking, canoeing and rafting facilities. Beyond Boundaries also has outdoor training centres in Udawalawe and Wilpattu, as well as in Colombo, at BMICH.

Leadership training from an adventure experience company
Stratford Avenue, Colombo 06
4 410 110/2 504 602

OBT-story-image-4Borderlands offers adventure-based experiences like white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking.According to Sri Lanka’s Managing Director Wade Campbell, Borderlands’ experience-based programs promote three objectives:
1. The safety factor – Borderlands invests heavily in equipment and training its staff internationally.
2. The learning factor – Program goals include team building, conflict resolution, and identifying a mission and vision for the organization.
3. The fun factor – Borderlands’ home base in Kitulgala is a riverside camp that overlooks the scenic Kelani River. They also run expedition-style mobile programs in the Mahaweli and other rivers, in addition to sea kayaking in Kalpitiya Borderlands is priced slightly higher than others in the market: an average Rs10,000 per day, all inclusive. However, it’s value for money as such programs cost nearly 10 times more internationally.