This is an excerpts from the Article in India's one of the most admired Business Newspaper

Have you heard about the man who had no faith in his team? He was asked to jump off a 15-ft high rock-blindfolded – while his teammates stood at the landing, promising they would catch him before his ribs hit the ground. He jumped-and they caught him. If that’s a tame punch line, it’s because this is not a joke. It is a real-life instance of an exercise conducted by ABN Amro Bank to inculcate in its managers one of its core values –trust.

Experiential learning (EL) isn’t always about entrusting your life and limbs to other people. Some times, it can drive you to “kill” a person as you move through a jungle somewhere in Uttaranchal, guarding a hill. That was part of an exercise. The objective: improving leadership skills and preparing them to meet any challenge, any time.

ABN Amro and NTPC are not isolated examples. More and more companies in India are incorporating EL modules in their executive training programs, acknowledging the superiority of this way over conventional methods of teaching several critical life skills. After all, you’re more likely to pay attention to what the trainer is saying when you’re suspended by a thin rope over a steep precipice, than when you’re safely ensconced in an air-conditioned seminar room having over-indulged in a crabs-loaded lunch.

Of course, it’s not about heading for the hills over a long weekend. Sure, white-water rafting, rock climbing, camping and trekking are popular choices, but EL programs need to be carefully charted out, keeping the organization’s needs in mind. This is why there are now specialists for the job. But what is EL all about? And apart from its ability to keep participants a wake- and active, what advantages does it offer? The strategist takes a look.

Just do it

Research around the world proves adults learn more when they “do” rather than when they merely listen or see. “Pedagogical learning means learning through hearing and seeing. Anthological learning involves all the senses, and that’s what EL is about,”

Of course, the setting of outbound management development programs (OMDPs)- helps. People are pushed out of their comfort zone into word they don’t encounter every- day –frothing rapids, sheer rock faces to rappel and, at times, no running water and electricity. “An OMDP is sans office dynamics. Learning can be richer without inhibitors,”says strategic HR consultant Hema Ravichandar, who was previously senior vice president and group HR head, infosys. Another advantage of EL is that participants pay attention, not only because there are safety factors involved but also because it is fun. If you are sitting in a conference hall, you retain the power to not pay attention. Adventure sports also mean breaking limits. Typically, say HR leaders, participants begin a program mentally setting limits to their abilities. Then they try something new-and succeed-and it shakes them out of their self-imposed boundaries. “Imagine the impact if you take back to your office that learning of overcoming barriers that restrict your creativity” says Kumkum Nongrum, vice president and head, learning and development, ABN Amro.

Many men, many lessons

EL Works across industries and management levels. Most companies turn to EL to address areas such as team dynamics, leadership skills and conflict resolution. Then there are issues such as taking risk assessment, change management, sensitising employees to empathetic behaviour, and imbibing company values, Some organisations, including Maruti Udyog limited (MUL), have clearly defined EL programmes, keeping in mind the issues to be tackled and the people undertaking the exercise For graduate engineer trainees, EL modules are about adapting to different situations and building team work. Move up to the level of deputy general managers and functional heads, and it is about leadership and the ability to see things from several perspectives.

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