Adventure Takes Corporate Culture to the Extreme

Article excerpt

In a clearing of trees, an imposing, square, 24-foot wood deck towers high overhead. The size could accommodate a conference table and chairs. Within this lush woodland, a metal staircase spirals up to the engineering wonder that resembles a tree house but is called the Summit Outdoor Meeting Room.

Located on the 26-acre campus of Marriott's Hickory Ridge Conference Center, the Corporate Learning Institute offers workshops and programs based on hands-on experiences. The Lisle training facility combines traditional classroom discussion with high-rope adventures.

The summit is a canopied room without walls surrounded by a maze of challenges. Clusters of extra tall, wooden telephone poles support suspended catwalks, rope bridges, swinging platforms and a Burma Bridge.

"Our low teams course and new high ropes course offer a most exciting, yet accessible, team building experience," said Tim Buividas, president of the institute.

Groups that embark on the high ropes course must plan and build their way across the course. In the process, they experience risk- taking, confidence building, decision-making, strategic planning and problem-solving.

"Groups are given the building materials and even planning space up high so that they can plan their approach and choose the roles," Buividas said. "Our goal is to create an environment which lets participants experience success and make positive changes in themselves, their teams and their companies."

The challenge is supposed to be scary enough to push participants outside their comfort zone to think creatively and trust others. With a double safety system, it is the perceived danger that strikes fear.

The low teams course levels the playing field among participants. One challenge is the "wozzy," a set of paired metal cables that begin about a foot apart and then spread to roughly 6 feet apart. Facing each other, partners side step across the cables leaning against the other's hands. As the distance between the cables increase, the dependency on your partner also increases. Each needs to trust and support the other to successfully reach the far end.

"Both courses are designed to take individuals and groups beyond their own preconceived limitations to a perceived willingness to try," Buividas said.

Mastering the activity is not as important as the attempt itself. Personal growth and learning occurs in the attempts. …