Relieving the Spirit of Adventure at the NHRD Outbound Learning.


Dense foliage amidst picturesque surroundings , an exotic locale and the sprawling fifty acre campus at Empower Adventure Camps set the perfect backdrop for the annual NHRD Outbound Learning, ‘orchestrated’ by Commander Girish Konkar, CEO of Beyond Horizons – Institute for Leadership & Organsiational Excellence, on 22nd and 23 Aug 2008. A vibrant group of 35 enthusiastic delegates from various Corporates attended the program…Indeed the voyage to discovery was simply exhilarating, aptly described by one of the participants as a ‘life time experience’! The able guidance of Cdr Girish backed by decades of experience in the Navy, and his supremely competent and able team…. The positive attitude displayed by the participants set the tone for a winning strategy leading to successful culmination of the program…….


A curious departure from the conventional lecture mode of imparting knowledge, this program bore a marked difference. Armed with the powerful methodology of experiential and adventure learning, the participants were able to witness, and experience a glimpse of the essential qualities – a fine blend of trust, vision, passion and optimism, that go into the making of a winning team. The mainstay of the entire program was Team Development through profound experiences…..


The program was certainly a resounding success and a practical lesson on the synergy to be had when working in a team. Each of the participant shared positive vibes. The age –old philosophy of Leadership and Team Building were reinforced though enriching experiences…..


The exercises resulted in the participants imbibing the following tenets of management…..


Developing Leadership Through Experiential Learning

Leadership development is a continuous process – one that never stops. One of the most effective training methodologies is that of Experiential Learning. Why is Experiential learning considered a more powerful and effective learning tool?


I am sure most of us have learnt to ride a bicycle as a child. But how many of us took notes while learning to ride? I don’t think any one of us did! What did we do? Some one held the seat, while we practiced the fine art of balancing and after sometime that person let go of the seat & with that great rush of adrenalin we peddled tentatively, then furiously – exhilarated with the joy of having learnt to balance – then what happened? Suddenly someone steps in front of us – the brain froze and we either jammed hard on the brakes and fell down or turned the handle hard left or right and dashed against a tree or the side walk – a few bruises, physical as well as to the ego and we were up again. We picked up the cycle, climbed on and got on with the task of cycling.


Did we take notes? Did we make a note of what the rpm of the pedal wheel was, the gearing ratio between the pedal wheel and the sprocket wheel and the rpm of the main wheel – no! What about center of gravity, fulcrum, balance, the law of moments etc – once again – a no! In how many nano seconds did we press the brakes etc? We did nothing of the sort. Does all this come automatically or did the brain actually take notes? Ladies and gentlemen the brain did take notes – without us knowing it or even realizing it. It noted everything and the next time we cycled and someone steps in our path, the brain does not freeze, it involuntarily calculates all the options possible, which it has refined because of the previous experience and takes appropriate avoiding action – be it pressing the break in 2 nano seconds instead of the earlier 1 nano sec or giving a 21/2 degrees throw off instead of the violent jerk and at the same time slowing down the rate of pedaling to control the balance to ensure a smooth stop or a miss. Ladies and gentlemen, what the brain has done is learnt from the previous experience and that is experiential learning.


Same is the case with swimming. How many of us learnt about Archimedes principle – negative buoyancy, positive buoyancy, and neutral trim? None of us! But we still learnt how to swim. Even after 25 years, if we are again given a cycle or put in a swimming pool, we would be able to balance and ride the cycle and we would not go to the bottom of the pool. That is the power of experiential learning. The brain does not forget it easily until some other powerful experience causes the brain to rewire itself and unlearn the previous experience.


My contention is that all behavioral skills are best imbibed experientially. How to stand, talk, walk, eat, all interpersonal skills, understanding of each other are behavioral traits best learnt through experiences of life. How to shake hands – experiential learning. One does not read an article ‘bring your fingers together, palm upright, apply pressure between 5 – 8 kg/ sq cm……’ – you can forget shaking of hands. One actually takes the hand and shakes it & learns the art of shaking hands for life.


That experience of falling down the cycle and bruising our elbows or knees is a vital ingredient in the experiential learning process. The tougher your life experiences, more profound the learning.


How does one develop into a leader? Gurus suggest that leaders are not made – that one can learn the art of leadership. If it can be learnt, how does one learn it? Leadership cannot be learnt by mugging up theory. From theory one can only understand what traits are needed in order to become a good leader.


People learn about leadership experientially. The way we become leaders is by learning about leadership thorough life and job experiences, not with university degrees. It’s about on-the-job education. People learn to be leaders through difficult experiences and when they face adversity. They learn through the pain and agony of having to come up with hard answers. Ultimately the only way people learn about leadership is by being placed into situations from where they can learn and get feedback from valued sources around them. One of the best methods of grooming leaders is through the outbound experiential learning process and workshops designed specifically to bring about the leadership qualities required to be imbibed by the individuals. The experiences as mentioned above need necessarily to be profound and brain altering ones rather than simple games. More profound the experiences, the more powerful the brain’s understanding and implementation of them and them in leadership situations. Numerous experiences over time give the brain a library of responses and this develops into intuitive qualities of a person. Intuition can hence be developed from experiences and leaders are necessarily intuitive. As Warren Bennis, the Leadership Guru says, “Leadership doesn’t come from genes. It doesn’t come from reading or listening to lectures. It comes through the hard earned experience in the arena than watching from the balcony.”


Leadership & Team building is hence imbibed through the crucible of life’s experiences – not through books and classrooms.


Commander Girish Konkar is the CEO of Beyond Horizons – Institute for Leadership & Organisational Excellence based out of Pune. He can be contacted on