Outward Bound helps individuals tap into their undiscovered potential and trains employees to develop problem-solving, communication and creativity skills, reports the Chamber's staff writer Lafee Lo.

Participating in an Outward Bound course used to be a bit of a rite of passage for kids in the United Kingdom, who viewed it with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation. The excitement stemmed from the adventure of trying really cool and unique activities that pushed you beyond your comfort zone on a journey of self-discovery.

Doing something new and different can always be a little scary at first for most people, but once they try it, and exceed their own expectations, their confidence, and sense of achievement remains with them for the rest of their lives.

Founded in 1949 in the U.K., today Outward Bound operates in more than 30 countries. Since it first appeared in Hong Kong in 1970, its has become part of Hong Kong’s social fabric, helping schools, companies and charities to nurture well-round, confident individuals. In recent years, Outward Bound has put more emphasis on the corporate market by delivering tailor-made courses for businesses to help enhance team building and problem solving skills among employees.


Filling the gap

When it comes to outdoor adventure training, we usually think of it as some alternative education for school kids to get out of the classroom. We seldom associate it with corporate training, or as a tool to improve workplace dynamics.

Nick Cotton, Executive Director of Outward Bound Hong Kong, said outdoor adventure training is not only beneficial for school kids, it also has been proven to be tremendously helpful in improving organisations’ productivity and helping to develop analytical and independent skills that employers bemoan employees lack.

The highly sought-after skills and qualities include resilience, creativity, confidence, effective communication and problem-solving skills which are essential for the workplace.


“There is often a significant gap between the expectations of employers in terms of skills and qualities and what the employees actually have. That is where Outward Bound comes in. We develop the skills and qualities that are generally lacking among employees, especially among the younger generation,” said Cotton. “The highly sought-after skills and qualities include resilience, creativity, confidence, effective communication and problem-solving skills which are essential for the workplace.”

Many admired companies, such as Sun Hung Kai Properties, Hang Lung Properties, China Mobile International, and Towngas, among others, see the value in Outward Bound and have made it part of their management trainee programmes.

“What is good about our management trainee pro- grammes is that by putting these young talent into unfamiliar settings, they are forced to put down their ego to learn humbly and how to be a team player,” said Cotton.

Improving workplace dynamics

In addition to big company retreats and management training programmes, more and more small- and medium-sized companies are reaching out to Outward Bound to help them build more cohesive teams in the workplace.

Putting participants on kayaking, hiking, sailing, rock climbing or high ropes courses, Outward Bound’s corporate programmes cultivate trust among coworkers, and develop leadership and communication skills, all of which enhance the productivity of the company as a whole. As all companies have different needs and not all of their staff may be eager or even capable to climb up a rock face, courses are tailored for businesses’ specific circumstances.


“Our colleagues will communicate closely with our clients to find out what they need and what their expectations are before designing a course,” said Cotton.

The courses are intensive, practical and planned according to each client’s needs, and Cotton said most participants were able to apply some of what they had learned into their day to day lives or work. However, despite being in Hong Kong since the ‘70s, many people are unaware of the benefits that Outward Bound courses can bring to companies. The perception of courses only being for young, fit and adventurous people is also misguided.


“The myths that Outward Bound courses are too intensive or just for teenagers are exactly the kind of myths that we are trying to bust,” laughed Cotton. “We want people to know that our courses are useful for people from all walks of life and abilities, including businesses, regardless of their size. We want people to understand that our courses are actually fun!”

Looking ahead, Cotton said he plans to reach out more to businesses and associations more in 2018 so that they are more informed about what Outward Bound is all about and the benefits that it can deliver to groups and individuals.

“Doing something new and different can always be a little scary at first for most people, but once they try it, and exceed their own expectations, their confidence, and sense of achievement remains with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Source: HKGCC - The Bulletin

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