Using Experiential Learning: Breaking The Ice to Build a Team

Imagine yourself stranded in sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica with only a backpack as your primary means of survival. Compounding this miserable scenario is the fact that your hands are tied and your partners are blindfolded. What could you possibly do to survive this nightmare of nightmares?

Welcome to "On Thin Ice", a simulation used to develop and train company executives and managers. Using experiential learning, trainers aim to help develop organisational teams and encourage changes in behaviour.

APM Group, a local training and consulting firm, has licensed the programme from Tirian, a multinational organisational development group.

According to APM managing director Arinya Talerngsri, the programme has been designed in response to a sharp rise of demand in the market for new and more effective training tools.

"A large number of organisations have been looking forward to a new and better method for developing their people," she says. "They really want a new method that can actually be applicable and deliver results rather than just a few-day seminar that participants attend and come out of without having experienced much impact or productive results."

The answer lies in experiential learning programmes that can be designed specifically to meet the needs and problems of individual clients. Experiential learning is promoted through simulations of challenging situations, experiential workshops, adventures and other activities. The attractiveness is that they encourage "active doing rather than the passive being done to".

Through a series of physical and mental challenges, participants are encouraged to consider their responses to situations in which they must learn to work together in order to survive.

A combination of videos and PowerPoint slide presentations is used to set the scene. Challenging themes are used to simulate locations and situations while simple equipment is applied to create a learning environment.

Key challenges the participants face are cross-cultural issues within the team, a balance between speed and accuracy in performing tasks, communicating under pressure, building a proper environment for team development, managing change effectively and more.

The benefits of the experiential learning are that it helps open the minds of participants, enabling them to understand the concepts and realise the necessity to change behaviour characteristics as required in order to lead to commitment.

"These are the key fundamentals leading to change and learning by participants," says Mrs Arinya.

Unlike traditional training, experiential learning makes sessions enjoyable and entertaining while adding core values and essence, she added.

In a survey of Fortune 500 companies, 86.5% of those that reported using experiential learning said it was effective. APM spent two years seeking the best provider of the technique, and has invested 15 million baht in the programme. "We're certain that it's time to change. We do need a new technique for learning," says Mrs Arinya.

Currently, APM has about 30 prospective clients in the pipeline, mostly multinational companies and large Thai corporations. The process of designing the programme is a tough one, she says. The course development teams have brought in the Tirian programmes and adjusted them to fit clients' problems and cultures. The company charges between 20,000 and 50,000 per participant in each course.

Excerpted from news on Bangkok Post