Intellect, Will and Passion: The Art of Facilitating Outdoor Development Training
from an article published in Mastering Management by Jack Denfield Wood, Professor of International Behaviour at IMD
This article concerns the use of the Outdoors as a leadership development tool. While clearly an advocate of this method, Professor Wood is critical of much Outdoor Development Training, saying:
‘Many of the activities used in outdoor leadership training are so good that they can even be done badly by inexperienced or marginally competent facilitators and the programme participants can leave believing they have learned a great deal. But the results achieved are a fraction of the learning that could have been attained if the exercises were well designed, well integrated and well facilitated. Given a motivated participant, excellent facilitation is the critical criterion for an effective learning experience. Participant learning is not in the boards and pipes and ropes and oars; the learning is in the facilitation.
Facilitators must profoundly understand themselves and their own behaviour before they can be competent at helping others understand theirs. This is not always the case... It is not unusual for there to be an unconscious collusion between participants and less aware facilitators that goes something like this; ‘I’ll say nice things about you and your programme if you let me avoid learning about myself’. This kind of collusion can make serious behavioural learning difficult if not impossible.
Participant enjoyment may be a by-product of good facilitation, but it is not the primary goal of this kind of training. It is the primary job of a facilitator to help participants deepen their understanding of their own and others’ behaviour and to help them develop and refine more effective behavioural skills. For most of us this is an uncomfortable process. It is a process that is immeasurably aided by a competent group facilitator’.
Wood goes on to discuss the difference between dominance and leadership. Many people, he suggests, confuse the former with the latter and fail to recognise the more subtle and often more powerful influencing skills brought to bear by the truly effective leader. The ability to recognise and highlight these qualities is the mark of an effective facilitator.
Finally, Wood uses the philosophy of the ancient Greeks to capture what he believes is the essence of Outdoor development:
‘The Greeks believed that man draws upon three principle faculties - Intellect, Will and Passion. Most of our training and most of our working lives stress the exercise and development of our intellectual capabilities. We value the intellect at the expense of other faculties. Will and Passion are relegated to the playing field and are tolerated in organisational life only if they serve narrow corporate interests. Moving outdoors and allowing ourselves to engage in group problem-solving activities brings to light aspects of ourselves that normally operate only in the shadows’.