Images of Outdoor Management Development.

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I use the acronym OMD as a label for the phenomenon under investigation in my thesis, but what is OMD?

There are a wide variety of recreational activities, leisure activities, incentive events, competitions, and challenges that take place in the outdoors. Whilst people take part in these activities for their own sake, some people make use of the outdoors as a vehicle to achieve something else. This might be to build self-esteem amongst young people, to teach mountain navigation skills to users of the outdoors or to improve department's performance at work. Outdoor Management Development (OMD) is concerned with the latter of these purposes.

The generic title Outdoor Management Development (OMD) is in fairly common usage in the UK to describe training courses that have three common features. Firstly, OMD training courses are residential training events that has specific training aims or objectives that it seeks to achieve. Typically, OMD training courses tend to have training aims or objectives which seek to improve delegates' effectiveness in achieving the goals of their organisation. Secondly, they do not take place exclusively in a training room, lecture theatre or `classroom', as is the case with many training courses, and involve some activity, often out of doors.

Paradoxically, the label OMD does not just refer to training courses that use the outdoors. Many OMD courses do not take place completely out-of-doors, are not attended by managers and provide specific skills training rather than open-ended development. For example, some courses I have been involved in use team-building exercises, have not ventured beyond the front lawn of a hotel, whilst other courses have used activities which can take place as easily inside a building as in the outdoors. These OMD courses do not fit the preconceptions of many people who expect to be involved in adventurous activities such as rock climbing, abseiling and raft building. This has led writers such as Irvine and Wilson (1994) to suggest that OMD cannot be considered a separate definable activity from any other form of management development and Jolly (1992), who suggests a better description would be “Management Development by Experiential Learning, Process Reviews and Trainer Inputs” (Jolly 1992:2).

The use of the outdoors for similar purposes also many other labels as well as Outdoor Management Development (OMD). It is also commonly known as Adventure-Based Experiential Training, Outdoor Training Experiential-Based Training and Development and Development Training. More recently the term Outdoor Management Development has been adopted by Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, who offer a Masters level programme leading to an M.Sc. in Outdoor Management Development. My understanding of OMD is based on my experience of OMD courses as a trainer at Brathay Hall between 1990 and 1998.

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