Climbing The Corporate Rock Wall

Forget climbing the corporate ladder. Participants in the Corporate Challenge faced a rock wall, where success is all about teamwork

Yu Shing Ting
Friday - May 07, 2005
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With hands tied together, Vinni Freitas and Missy
Capone climb a rock wall in tandem

The playpen, balance beam, spider web, canyon crossing, hot stuff and blind man’s cure aren’t games you play in preschool. They’re made for the busy bodies of today’s corporate world where speed and strength aren’t required.

At the recent Corporate Challenge staged by Adventure Corp. in downtown’s Bishop Square, eight companies were tested on their team skills in leadership, trust, communication, decision-making, management, team- and self-confidence, problem-solving and group work.

“These team-building activities inspire employee motivation to increase productivity in companies,” explains John Henderson, executive director of Adventure Race Hawaii. “The activities often require the individual to leave their comfort zone and experience something new. It’s these experiences that they bring back to the workplace, resulting in a moreefficient and better-prepared individual.”

It’s not every day you see top business executives climb a rock wall or crawl through a “spider web” in the middle of the day at the center of Honolulu’s business district. But some bosses believe that interacting with your co-workers in a nonwork setting can be very beneficial to the work that’s being done in the office.

“I think it’s important to get workers out of their everyday environment, so that they can interact in different ways and do something different from what they do everyday in their workplace,” says Raul Boca, founder of Boca Hawaii. “The things we did (at the Corporate Challenge) are for everybody at all levels. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss or the cashier, everybody interacts on the same level and are sharing their ideas.

“You build a stronger relationship with your co-workers and as a result, you’re able to interact better at work. I think it’s hard to do these activities at work because you still have the structure of the workplace there. It’s much more interesting outdoors.”

Like most offices, it’s difficult to pull employees outside of the building during work hours for, well, nonwork activities. I was lucky to recruit five of my colleagues from Niketown to help me represent MidWeek at the recent Downtown Planet Corporate Challenge.

A total of eight teams showed up, and each team was randomly paired up with another team to accomplish each task. The teams were: MidWeek/Niketown and Boca Hawaii, PacificBasin Communications and KKEA Sports Radio, U.S. Navy and the East-West Center, and American Savings Bank and Downtown Planet.


MidWeek/Niketown and Boca
Hawaii join hands to give Wellington Phillips
a lift

The six obstacles to conquer: the play pen (one person has to climb up a rock wall blindfolded, while two other team members have to climb up the wall, using only one hand and without talking to each other (one hand is tied to the other person’s); balance beam (after five minutes of planning, 10 members of the team must go from one entryway onto the plank and then dismount it without letting either end of the plank touch the ground, and without talking to each other); spider web (each member of the team needs to go from one side of the web to the other without touching the rope and without using the same hole more than once), canyon crossing (all members of the team need to get from one side of the canyon to the other by creating a bridge using three wooden boards that are of different sizes and six cinder blocks that are scattered about, the wooden boards and all team members cannot touch the ground); hot stuff (using strips of nylon cords and a piece of an inner tube, the team must create a device to move a container of “radioactive material” and pour it into a “neutralization receptacle” without spilling it), and the ,b>blind man’s cure (one member of the team is blindfolded, and with a climbing rope the team has to get that person into a marked area to retrieve a bottle without anyone touching the area).

“I thought the event really helped with learning to communicate with your fellow employees,” says Sheldon Nagata, an account manager for KKEA. “Some of the things I learned are that planning is necessary in these events, to think on your feet, and to develop some kind of game plan to accomplish those tasks or goals. Also, someone has to be a leader and really take charge or you can go in so many different directions.

“I think everybody came out of there with a sense of learning something greater, such as sharpening your communication skills and developing more of a teamwork attitude. It was a very well-run event that had great potential for many businesses around town.”

Adventure Race Hawaii was created two years ago, offering a series of local adventure races using various outdoor sports such as hiking and trekking, navigating and kayaking.

Adventure Corp. is a division of Hawaii Adventure Race that specializes in corporate teambuilding activities. Clients include Starbucks, Jamba Juice, McDonald’s and Price Waterhouse Cooper. They also plan to conduct another corporate challenge next year.

“Throughout my life I have encountered countless challenges ranging from researching molecular neurogenetics at Harvard University to diving in life-threatening assignments as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard,” says Henderson. “It was in this role that I was faced with a wide variety of tasks that taught me the importance of team building. The jobs that I performed were dangerous and life-threatening. It was critical that everyone worked as a team because it could not only jeopardize our assignment, it could cost someone their life.”


Andrew Leford of the Navy teams with Goi Theinprasert (left)
and Bev Honda of the East-West Center to cross ‘the canyon’

Next on the Adventure Race Hawaii calendar is a trip to Molokai where they will be working with the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center and its Asian Pacific Leadership program to develop adventurebased leadership training that focuses on building communication skills.

Then there’s the 24-Hour Challenge June 25 on the North Shore, and the Sprint Adventure Aug. 20 at Kualoa Ranch. For more information, visit www.adventureracehawaii.com.

Oh, and by the way, not bragging, just reporting: The MidWeek/Niketown and Boca Hawaii team took home the firstplace trophy.

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