Ever have days when the world looks flat and dreary? Whole weeks like that? Months, you say?
Ever wake up with a cold knot in your stomach and think, "Darn it, I'm not going in the office today. They can put the paper out without me."?
If so, and if you're a high-level employe of a corporation that has extra cash to dispose of, you might want to talk to the in-house powers-that-be about a little trip over to Corporate Adventure for one of their "wilderness labs." It could put that aggressive zing right back into your executive life.
That's right, Corporate Adventure. Did someone snicker in the back?
Good. They like laughter at Corporate Adventure, as long as it's the right kind. Positive laughter. Supportive laughter. Laughter that creates a more energized, efficient and committed group and spawns goal-oriented success strategies. Laughter, in short, that brings results.
In fact, one of the first things your facilitator will ask you to do over at Corporate Adventure, once you sign in, is to make up a funny name for yourself. That's how Serious Sue and Myriad Maureen, Jumping Joe, Potato Chip, Silly Sandy, Crazy Carol and a couple others whose nicknames frankly have escaped this addled mind came to be balancing Ambiguous Angus in the air last week, bouncing him around like so much pizza dough in an exercise called "The Magic Carpet."
"Isn't this fun?" he thought, shutting his eyes and letting all those hands rock him in the brisk, autumn air.
Fun, indeed, but not fun without a purpose. The Magic Carpet was teaching him to trust his support staff, whether he knew it or not.
Corporate Adventure is Outward Bound for the soft and powerful. No serious risks here, of course. Nobody gets issued a Rambo knife and dropped on a deserted island. "We protect our clients against physical and psychological injury," said facilitator Janet W. Long.
Corporate Adventure's scheme is to take the brass hats from a big company out into the woods at the Madeira School in suburban Virginia, where they are taught to let their hair down, exorcise office stereotypes, touch each other, play, "get silly," and then as a group tackle ridiculous projects and take a few pretend risks in exercises that are "metaphors for professional challenges in the organizational arena," as Long puts it.
After a couple days of this, the exhausted bosses get to sit around for another day soberly assessing ways to apply their observations to improving performance in the workplace, which frankly sounds like a good day to call in sick.
Later, each exec might bring out his own "vertical support staff" for Phase 2, during which sometimes the boss gets jostled around by his inferiors. That's where the psychological protection comes in. "We don't want anyone walking out of here damaged," said Long.
That's good, because Corporate Adventure tackles problems, meaning taking out work groups that are on the verge of self-immolation and teaching them to play nice again.
Of course, our little crew was just a thrown-together demonstration group lacking the history of backstabbing that produces vitriolic fun with a more inbred bunch. Since none of us knew each other, we hadn't had time to cultivate any good hatreds, but after a day in the woods I can tell you Crazy Carol didn't get her nickname for nothing, and I'm wondering just who Jumping Joe jumped to get where he is.
Ah, but we had our fun. First, there was Mt. Everest, when all eight of us had to climb on an 18-inch square block of wood and stay there five seconds, girls and boys together. Talk about proximity!
Then, there was the Australian trolley, a pair of eight-foot two-by-fours that we had to use like skis to clump across a patch of ground that we pretended was a burning desert so we could get to the oasis at the other side.
We got the trolley going just about right when the facilitator jumped in and changed the rules. Goll-ee, we all thought, but what are you going to do?
Long said sometimes in addition to changing the rules in the middle, the way companies do, she might even blindfold somebody to signify some poor employe running around doing a job he has no idea why he's doing. Luckily, she spared us the blindfolds.
After "The Electric Wire," which we all had to climb over without touching, borne again on the strong hands of our support staff, we had ham and cheese sandwiches and Oreo cookies for lunch.
That's when we started seriously analyzing the lessons learned from our first challenges in the wilderness. Right in the middle of all this, if you can believe it, I noticed Potato Chip was breaking his Oreos in half and licking the middle out.