Here we interview Ann from Original Outdoors who shares a few great away day ideas for all budgets and abilities.
C&S: How long have you guys been in the business and how have you seen the team building style activities change over the years?
Ann: We have run a family businesses for over twenty years, but Original Outdoors has been active since 2003. It was started by my son Richard and now we work with a wide variety of clients, from small businesses and teams to multi-national corporations and government agencies. There have been definite trends in what people ask for, moving from team-oriented games and abstract challenges to fun events that were more like a day-off for the participants. More recently this has swung back to outdoor challenge events that include real physical and mental dragons to slay – long distances, difficult weather, achieving a distant goal.
What easy away day ideas do you do at Original Outdoors?
It’s really quite subjective – what could be a laid-back session for one group could be the challenge of the year for another! We recently organised a private 50km mountain day for a group of friends, all ultra-distance athletes, which they breezed through. Another group really had to dig deep for what was essentially 24hrs of glamping in a forest. If we only have a few hours and the brief isn’t to test the group TOO much we normally offer a selection of informative and interactive walks such around subjects like wild food or tracking, or some simple team-building games.
What are the most popular activities you run?
The most popular tend to be bespoke multi-day outdoor challenges, such as the National Three Peaks or other adventurous trips. However if we are working from a fixed location like Iscoyd Park, then we normally run a bespoke, scenario-based event, leaning on scenarios taken from our work in other fields, such as survival training for professional users. We might put together something where the participants become the survivors of a plane crash, waiting for rescue and having to use the limited items given to them to build shelters, light fires and attract rescue.
Why do you think people incorporate these types of events?
I think it’s the fact we can bring real-world examples of the benefits of effective team management to their event. Our own team includes people with military, search and rescue and emergency services experience who can all observe how a team is operating and suggest improvements and coach them. For managers this is where the difference between good and bad team-building events really shows up – and with our events, we actually care about how that individual team works.
And if people are looking for something really challenging, how wild can you go with your team building activities?
Physical challenges and climbing mountains are great – but what really tests people is when you stretch out their mental endurance and push them just outside their comfort levels into the “stretch” zone for more than a few hours. Events involving having to create or gather what you need for daily life – shelter, fire, food etc – rather than relying on them being provided for you. That’s when people really find out who they are, and managers can see how their team responds to individual and group pressures.
What’s the biggest event you have created for clients in the past?
We’ve worked on some big events – multi-day adventure races, event safety cover, television and film location and advisory roles. But I think our biggest team building event would have to be a weekend we created for a German company. Their staff had no idea they what they were in for, only the CEO and a few others.
It involved the CEO being “kidnapped”, and the staff being trained by real military instructors in everything they would need to perform a successful “hostage recovery”. It was really in-depth, with intelligence information, aerial photos, training in tactics – everything. The next day the teams performed a rescue somewhere in the grounds of the hotel, complete with air-soft weapons, pyrotechnics and actors defending the position. It was a lot of work and required weeks of planning – but it used a fun and exciting scenario to teach things like contingency planning, command structures, role importance and other aspects of working in a group structure that many businesses could relate to.
If groups are only small what’s the best sort of activity they could create?
With small groups or limited time we normally suggest one or more team building games, which can be easily tailored to match the specifics of the group. There are some classic team building challenges that have been used for a reason – because they work well for all ability levels, particularly when coupled with experienced instructors and tutors.
What’s your favourite activity to host with groups?
We love big events and complex challenges, but the short half-day events working with a simple challenge are probably our favourites. With the right challenge you can maintain good energy and enthusiasm throughout the day, which can offer a good counterpoint to the relative monotony of a sales training session or annual meeting.
People often think of team building as a summer thing. What can you create in winter?
Anything is possible in winter, you just need to come up with the right challenge for the group and the weather. People have this image of a group on a mown lawn trying to build a bridge from sheets of A4 paper or something similar – but a good team building provider can pull together an activity to suit all weathers – including staying indoors for the entire session! But as long as everybody can get back to a place where they can be dry, warm, clean and happy then it doesn’t matter too much if the temperature is low or it’s a little wet!
Thank you Ann for the very informative responses!
If you like the sound of kidnapping your boss, or finding your team’s true colours through a simulated emergency situation and are feeling inspired to include an element of the challenging into your away day, let us know.
Original Outdoors are based in North Wales and work closely with Iscoyd Park If you are looking for somewhere different We have fantastic suppliers associated with each of our houses. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.