Learning Without Limits

This January, 12 of my REED colleagues went to Postalm in Austria to participate in a unique leadership course, our Alpine Leadership Challenge.

This is experiential learning with a difference. It takes “going outside of your comfort zone” to a whole new level. We like to call it “learning without limits”.

The participants go into the mountains in winter conditions (there was over a metre of fresh snow on the ground this time). They participate in a series of exercises and challenges including climbing a Klettersteig (which is a wire cable up a steep rock face, and in German means “climbing path”), and they bivouac in what is commonly called “the billion star hotel”, namely the open air. The group of 12 are thrown together, have little idea of what to expect and must work together collaboratively to conclude the challenge successfully. This resonates with me, because so much of modern day business feels just the same.

Our Alpine Leadership Challenge is run by an Austrian man I met a few years ago. His name is Stefan Gatt and he is now a firm friend. In 2001 Stefan famously climbed Everest without oxygen and then became the first person in the world to snowboard down from the top. He brings a unique combination of mountaineering and psychological expertise to our extreme form of experiential learning.

I have completed two of these Alpine Leadership Challenges and on both occasions learnt something new about leadership, about myself and about my colleagues.

At the time, the experience is extremely testing, both mentally and physically, and the management lessons are not immediately obvious.

However this year, as in previous years, 100 days later our Alpine Leadership Challenge team came together for a debrief at the Reed Business School. If you don’t relish wading through deep snow and sleeping outdoors in freezing conditions, you might still be interested in some of the insights they came home with. Here are six which resonated with me…

“It is important to have confidence and belief in your own abilities”

“Mindset is key to effective leadership”

“Have belief and confidence in your team”

“You can achieve great things if you really push yourself”

“Everyone needs to step out of their comfort zone”

“The best thing about leading is being part of a successful team”

I do ask myself if this kind of experiential learning has commercial value. The participants are adamant that it does and that it will do. Stefan will, I am sure, be happy to guide you and your team on a journey of learning without limits – if you trouble to ask him. You can find him here.

Good climbing!