What is a Ropes Course and Why is it so Great for Team Building?

What is a Ropes Course and Why is it so Great for Team Building?

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Ropes course team building has been around in one form or another for more than 25 years. Although it enjoyed its most popular period in the 1990’s this team building option is still one of my favourite team building options. Nothing else engages participants on the same level. Nothing else takes them to such heights physical, but more importantly emotionally. Nothing else is as memorable and with memory comes the ability to apply the learning and experiences from the session.

Once again Outward Bound was one of the originators of using a ropes course for team building. The use of ropes courses in persona and team development stems from the philosophy that people learn best in what is called their “learning zone”. Much of our daily lives are spent in our “comfort zones”. This is a place where we are happy and secure and can complete any tasks easily and without really thinking. When we step out of the comfort zone we enter the learning zone. This is a place where we need to think, reflect, analyze, and problem solve. We are making decisions and learning good from bad. We are growing as individuals in this state and we are actually building new neurological connections in our brain. Travel beyond the learning zone and you enter your “panic zone”. No learning is taking place here as you are in survival more only.

What a ropes course does, when professionally facilitated, is to get people outside their comfort zones and into their learning zone. In this place they are reflecting upon how and what they do and how it influences their results. This is a great environment to learn about and grow so many leadership and team competencies such as communication, trust, problem solving, goal setting, leadership style, team development, emotional intelligence, decision making and so much more.

So what exactly is a ropes course team building you are now asking? A ropes course is an obstacle course that is constructed above the ground that challenges the individual and the team to overcome it. All ropes course team building program are what we call challenge by choice, meaning that there are many ways to participate and you can choose the best challenge for you long term development. Although there is a physical element to ropes course team building the ropes course that is designed for an adult corporate audience takes this into consideration and reduces the physical demands. If someone can climb a ladder they are physically capable of negotiating the ropes course. However, even when physically able some people will not want, and should not, climb for various reasons. To accommodate inclusiveness there is a role for all team members that is critical for the overall success of the event regardless of your ability or desire to climb.

Ultimately the ropes course team building takes people out of their comfort zones and moves them to their learning zone. As professional facilitators at Summit Team Building this is where we can introduce learning models, strategies and tools and where that participant can try them out and customize them for their use. The end goal is to then develop and action plan to apply this learning to the team environment. But this is another blog. For now, climb on!