Experiential Learning at Offsites
Business 2.0 has a short piece on “why we all hate offsites.” I’ll try not to be defensive since I often facilitate retreats that are held out of the office, but in this case, the article is referring to the traditional corporate offsite, which is typically at a resort location and involves outdoor exercises, trust falls, or what the author disparagingly refers to as “experiential learning.”
I think experiential learning is cool, actually, and very important, but the example he cited was of the facilitator who had little colored stones representing the “cornerstones” of teamwork (communication, sharing resources, etc.) and the participants had to roll a stone to each other if they violated a cornerstone during an exercise.
I guess that’s experiential, but it’s not real. Why do people think that in order to learn things and figure out how to work better together they have to venture into the realm of the hypothetical or the conceptual or the simulated? Why not take time during an offsite retreat and actually identify and solve the problems you face as a team? Then when you’re done, look back at the experience and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Now, that’s experiential learning.