Different class

Training
takes on a new light as courses draw new and intriguing analogies with work
life. By Roisin Woolnough

It
is no longer enough to just sit people down in front of a flipchart and talk at
them for a day on management courses. People want to interact with one another,
exchange ideas and learn new ways of communicating. As a result, there are an
increasing number of unusual courses that aim to challenge the way people think
and assess how they operate in the workplace. Here are three of the most
unusual.

Horse
power

This
year, the Manchester Business School (MBS) started running courses that
incorporate the methods of horse trainers. Based on the principles expounded by
Monty Roberts, the man who inspired the book and film The Horse Whisperer, the
courses explore issues such as leadership, trust and communication.

"I
have discovered that the horse has many of the same responses and needs as
humans and close behavioural ties," says Roberts. "Horses live within
a social order that is based on the principles of trust, loyalty and mutual
concern. Obviously, there are differences in the communication system for
humans and horses and what you ask horses to do, but the concepts are exactly
the same."

People
attending a course are taken to an enclosure and the horse trainer will
demonstrate how difficult horses can learn to trust humans and perform tasks
they previously refused to do. For example, accepting a rider for the first
time or entering a horsebox.

"If
you have a horse that does anti-social things like buck or nip the owner, then
you work out mechanisms to show that it’s not helpful," explains Tudor
Rickards, head of the organisation behaviour group at MBA. "What you don’t
get into is punishment. Horse trainers are not into beating horses or giving
sugar lumps to good horses – it’s more subtle than that and it teaches people
to reward other people properly."

The
idea is to show people that successful leadership is about building trust and
communicating effectively. If an employee is behaving in an appropriate manner,
then what is the reason for it and how could it be addressed?

The
horse demonstration is part of a two-day course on creative leadership, where
delegates will discuss what they learned from the experience and their
perception of management.

Contact:
0161-275 6368
www.mbs.ac.uk/programmes/edc
www.montyroberts.com

Music
scores

Miha
Pogacnik is a concert violinist. He also calls himself a diplomat, business
consultant and visionary – a man who helps people to understand the powers of
music. In his capacity as a business consultant, Pogacnik goes into companies
and plays classical music to an audience, using the music to demonstrate
fundamental principles of renewal and change and inspire professionals to
achieve their goals.

"There
is a profound connection between art and enterprise which allows businesses to
overcome the limitations of their existing visions," claims Pogacnik.
"My job is to make a journey with people into a musical masterpiece. It is
like giving someone an extra eye or ear for them to look for meaning."

The
Slovenian will play a masterpiece, stopping and starting throughout the
performance to deconstruct the music and talk about how it is evolving. He asks
his audience to listen to the music, interpret it themselves and think about
how it is relevant to them. "I direct their attention to how material is
developing, arriving at crisis points and moving on. It is about creative
tension."

Pogacnik
says one instance where his sessions can be very useful is getting two separate
departments or companies who have to work on a project together to understand
each other’s goals, ways of working and how they can pull together to achieve
the desired result.

Companies
can even choose to use Pogacnik’s way of working with a full-scale orchestra to
accompany him. He has a symphony orchestra and when they play together, he asks
people to sit among the players as the music unfolds and talk about what is
happening, just as he would when performing on his own.

Pogacnik
works closely with Breakthrough Technologies, specialists in the field of
organisational transformation. They are based in Gloucestershire, at the Maheo
Centre, a place that runs courses on well-being and organisational change.

Contact:
Breakthrough Technologies 01453 861050
www.breakthrough.co.uk

Learning
journey

Roger
Putt is a great fan of Ernest Shackleton. So much so, that he decided to base
his management courses on the experiences and personality of the explorer.
"Shackleton was an example of an incredible piece of leadership in the
Antarctic. His ship got stuck and he spent almost two years marooned, living on
sea ice with his men and he saved all those people."

Putt
says he tries to recreate the feelings of uncertainty, shifting goals and
despair that Shackleton had to deal with. He starts his courses by getting a
group to gel together. He talks about Shackleton and hints at the challenges
that they will have to face. "Then I tell them a wonderful story about
what we’re going to do – like abseiling – and where we’re going to do it. They
get all prepared for it and choose their equipment. The next day, we start the
journey, then I stop the vehicle and say ‘We’re not doing that any more’ and
see what they do and what the manager does."

From
that point on, Putt throws new challenges at people, constantly telling them
one thing and then moving the goalposts. "A good manager knows what to do
when this happens. They say ‘Okay, that goal is gone, so I will look for the
next goal’." Typically, the course might involve a day on Dartmoor when
Putt sets various challenges, such as building a raft or putting up tents.
People are only allowed to take what they think is essential equipment from the
minibus and have to survive with that for the day. Putt even gets delegates to
amuse themselves; "You give the team absolutely nothing to do for a bit
and see how they handle dealing with boredom. Do they invent or create routines
or disciplines? People get really fed up after a while and that’s the real test
for the leader."

Contact:
01628 477882

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