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New Research Demonstrates Value of Experiential Learning for Leaders

The Association for Talent Development, or ATD, a major resource and publication for personal and professional development, published an article in May 2016 on the value of experiential learning for leaders. At CBST Adventures, we are big advocates for experiential learning and have incorporated this concept into many of our programs, including our Experiential Leadership offerings.


To learn more about our Experiential Leadership programs, click here and please contact us.

Technology Company Team Build: A Different Kind of Food Drive…

Have you ever been hungry?  Even for just a little bit?  You skipped breakfast and went out on a hike.  You didn’t have time for lunch during conference calls.  Or, perhaps, you went to the pantry, and nothing called to you.  How did that make you feel?  Were you short tempered? Feeling a little uneasy? Maybe even lightheaded?

Now imagine that you experience that every day. You go to the pantry and you find a can of beans, or a few potatoes, and that is your food for the day.  As you walk out on the streets heading for work you notice the restaurants, and the food smells great, but when you reach into your pocket you realize that you don’t have the money to even buy a sandwich.

Sometimes in our privileged world, we might feel that there are plenty of programs out there to handle issues like this – food stamps, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and subsidized lunches.  While these programs do help to alleviate some of the challenges, there are still many Americans living only blocks from us that are going hungry every single day.

With this in mind, we’d like to share a powerful story that starts with a local company setting a key business goal was to “make a difference” in society. Yes, you read that right – a business goal intent on making a social impact.  Solidyn Solutions, an engineering services company headquartered in Denver, decided that they wanted to do something during their holiday celebration to give back to their community.  Their leaders noticed that Keystone Resorts was offering a Community Impact Team Building event with their group meeting package, so they decided to have their all-company holiday party up in Keystone.

Dawn and Andy Marshall, key executives at Solidyn, are two incredibly caring people who are active in serving as advocates for low-income and homeless families in the Denver metro area.  They serve on the board and volunteer with the Jefferson County Action Center.   This desire to serve and improve the local community is a cornerstone value for CBST Adventures as well, which is why we often include a social impact component with our events.

Solidyn decided to host a Community ‘Mini-Golf’ Impact Food Drive Challenge at their event in Keystone, where employees would be challenged to create mini-golf courses with perishable food (in a non-damaging way, of course). CBST Adventures sprung to action, setting the stage for what was sure to be an amazing evening of sharing in the holiday spirit and giving back.

When the evening of the mini-golf event arrived, Solidyn’s employees and families arrived to find $5,000 worth of food waiting for them to build out 15 holes of ‘championship-worthy’ mini-golf course.   The children of the families were ecstatic, and the engineer parents were even more thrilled.   It was truly a sight to behold, as rarely have our events had so much engineering creativity and design.

What really made the event special was beforehand, CBST’s CEO, Jay Irwin, reached out to CityWILD, the youth leadership development non-profit in Denver and invited 11 CityWILD students to work the Solidyn event. The CityWILD students not only worked side by side with CBST staff and Solidyn, helping with the build out of the mini-golf course, but then they were given the tremendous responsibility to later go into their own low-income neighborhoods and deliver the non-perishable food to families in need.

Once the evening was over, the 11 CityWILD students and our CBST staff packed up three pallets of food to be distributed to these communities in need.  One of the CityWILD students said to CBST’s CEO, “That was so much fun working the event, but what’s going to be more fun is distributing this food out into my community.  It’s going to make such a huge impact on Christmas for my neighbors, and I know exactly who needs it the most.”

To make their deliveries even more special, the students put the food into meaningful packages and delivered them door-to-door.   Rice, beans, tuna, granola, peanut butter, spaghetti and sauce, applesauce, and a tin of Christmas cookies for each family as a special treat were all included.   Upon delivery, one woman starting crying and said, “The food is important and my family needs it, but it means even more to know that someone out there cares enough to think of me and my family during this time.”

Make no mistake, this was a teambuilding event for Solidyn and their employees; but, as you can tell, the impact of the event went far beyond the company of Solidyn. It’s such transformational and life-changing events that we at CBST Adventure’s love to create and help be a part of.

To learn more about CBST and our Social Impact initiatives, click here.

Medical Device Company ‘Levels Up’ Continuous Improvement

If you play videos games, you might be familiar with the term ‘Level Up.’ In video game terminology, it means to advance to the next level and to progress within a game. This was the theme of a bi-annual meeting for a major medical device company in the Kidney Dialysis market.

As part of this theme, it was important to the company and to the 42 person team that CBST Adventures worked to focus on improving communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, all aspects that are important to their daily work. We love when companies want to incorporate their regular jobs into the teambuilding experience because that mirrors our approach as well. We don’t believe in simply creating half-day or daylong escapes for our clients but rather to provide a transformational and dynamic experience that people will take with them back to the office for many days, months, and years to come.

Now don’t be mistaken, while our events are powerful and impactful, we love having fun too. For example, as part of this team build, we had the director of the team dress up as a Queen (think Zelda or another popular medieval games) and go out in public to different places in Downtown Denver. You can imagine amount of laughs that ensued… The challenge for her team was then to try to find her via clues on a 4G tablet that had her GPS location.

In case you’ve never heard of an outdoor teambuilding experience that dresses people up like Queens out in public and incorporates tablets and GPS technology, that’s because there’s not many out there.  We like to believe that this is unique to CBST Adventures value proposition. Yes, we’re an outdoor company but we also know that technology plays a large role in society today and even can add value to an outdoor experience. As for integrating the element of fun – well, who doesn’t like to have fun???

Throughout the game, the teams gained information and clues via pop-up questions, streaming videos and real time text based commands sent to their 4G tablet. At each stage of the progressive game, teams had the choice to compete at the first challenge level and earn the minimum amount of points OR go for a more difficult challenge worth more points. With higher risk comes higher reward but there’s also more to lose!

All in the all, the game was an incredible experience for the participating company as it pushed them to practice high levels of communication, problem solving, and critical thinking – remember the objectives from above?  What was really neat to see was the trust forming amongst colleagues and strengths identified in others that many folks didn’t know where there. These are the insights and breakthroughs that can be a game-changer in terms of how a team or organization functions.

At days end, the Queen was found but the laughter and good times kept going. Where we take the most pride at CBST Adventures is in creating a memorable experience that a team or organization won’t forget for awhile – not just because how fun or funny it was, but also because it transformed perspectives and improved interpersonal skills – invaluable results for companies and an incredible outcome for a half-day team build event.

An Enduring and Transformational Teambuilding Event

If you’ve ever participated in a teambuilding exercise, pull up those memories. Did it succeed in accomplishing its goals? Did it change your behavior at work? Better yet, did it change you as a person?

Most team building activities are pretty one-dimensional. They address behavior at one moment in time. Maybe the goal is to climb up a rope faster than Bill in Accounting. Or maybe the goal is to get Bill in Accounting up the rope. Imagine, instead, if such activities lived with people beyond a teambuilding event, and delivered results over a long period of time.

At my company, CBST Adventures, we facilitate a broad range of world-class teambuilding and leadership development activities, some “traditional” and others not so much. Always, our goal is to design an experience that is enduring – reusable and repurposeable for clients and their employees over an indefinite period of time.

For example, back in February, a long time client, Optiv, came to us and asked for our help in designing a 2 hour—but transformational—experience to complement their 3 day sales and training conference.

Here’s what we came up with. The last day of the conference, about 65 Optiv marketing professionals walked into a generic conference room at the Hyatt Regency Downtown Denver and saw piles of camping equipment.

The event was launched with an announcement that the mundane conference room was about to be transformed into Camp Conference Center. In a flurry of activity, each of the corporate campers was assigned randomly to teams. Each team was given the instruction that it would have 90 minutes to set up a usable campsite and perform various challenges. When time expired, a spokesperson from each of the groups would step forward and finish this sentence: ‘Camping is…’  When all that’s done, we’ve got a little surprise.”

As expected, there was a bit of confusion as each team sorted out roles and responsibilities. But soon, everyone settled into a groove. 90 minutes later, they reconvened as one group.  A spokesperson from each team stepped forward. “Camping is…fun!” Camping is…challenging!” Camping is…hard!”

After each took their turn, the corporate campers were wondering what was next when the conference room doors banged open. Half dozen high school kids surged into the room. Each of them are active in CityWild, a Denver nonprofit organization that empowers inner city youth to experience the outdoors and develop leadership skills through adventure.

Over the next half hour, these youths guided the employees through a series of fun, somewhat-camp related activities like hockey slap shots into the open tent flaps and sleeping bag races.

To the delight of the campers, a proclamation was made that Optiv would be donating all the camping gear to CityWild and Big City Mountaineers. After this announcement, several of CityWild’s informal ambassadors starting sharing their stories. Daniel, a high school junior, related in a quiet voice to a now silent crowd how adventure had changed his life. . Rosa, a board member, told how she’d seen her children transform and now was watching the same thing happen with her grandchildren. You could see it in everyone’s faces. Everyone in the room couldn’t wait to get out on their next adventure.

After the event, I lingered in the hallway and chatted with some of Optiv’s employees. They shared with me how this simple 2-hour team-building event had changed them. “I love camping,” gushed one young woman. “I take it for granted that I can just go whenever I want. None of these kids take it for granted. And today we’ve done something that’s going to them keep doing what they love.”

CBST Adventures isn’t your typical ropes course or mystery box company. We want people to walk away from our events feeling transformed, enlightened, and awakened. It’s our goal that client experiences don’t just last for a day – they live with people for a lifetime.

Master Blaster: Team Dynamics with Experiential Leadership

Team building is a never-ending process. As a company or team grows, it continuously faces challenges to maintain a healthy team dynamics. Thinking strategically about on-boarding, development and maintenance is a critical component for every business.

Experiential outdoor leadership programs help in creating a learning environment for team practice so that the team members can execute more effectively in the real world. When one works as a team, it helps in boosting up the team’s moral through shared successes and performance breakthroughs. As the old proverb goes: United we stand, divided we fall. The leadership modules engage a wide variety of learning styles. Unique interactive challenges provide opportunities to devise strategies, and collaborate better on leadership roles rather than dividing on an individualistic approach to any issue.

Dynamics of Team Building and Experiential Leadership at a glance: 

  • Surveys and Interviews at the Personal Level: All team members are put through theme based tests that help to understand the individual psyche of the members through experimental and challenging modules.


  • Assessment of Existing Team Dynamics: In every office and every business exists an inter-departmental tension. But once they members of different departments are mixed within the outbound teams, it’s always easy to observe and assess the existing team dynamics.


  • Explores Elements of Trust: The modules created for the outreach programs help the management to explore interaction, communication, collaboration and element of trust among its various departments.


  • Group Orientation: Navigation to any destination is difficult, but if the team dynamics work then one can easily and successfully reach the goal and work wonders. Experiential leadership programs help in orienting a group through its common shared dynamics.


  • Facilitates Sharing of Information: Helps in accessing and sharing skills of each member of the team.  There are times when we do not even know what potential a particular team member has, but when thrown before challenges they can exhibit their hidden talents that otherwise go un-noticed. Even sharing of information and opinions that is usually not done while a person is working within a department, can be executed.


  • Development of a Road Map: Once the mix-and-match teams live together and sort out their differences through shared responsibilities, they get a chance to sit down and talk about commitment and actionable steps. This helps the employees themselves to control their developmental process and put in more to achieve their goals.


  • Persuasive Leadership: Rather than positional leadership, persuasive leadership while working in a team can bring out the best from employees. The experiential programs help even a positional leader to use their persuasive skills to make their members gel together rather than commanding by virtue of their position.

To learn more about CBST Experiential Leadership programs, click here.

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