The Genesis of Outbound Training


Two years ago as I was designing an Outbound training program, I became curious about the evolution of this extraordinary learning format. As I researched, I learned that Dr. Kurt Hahnfounded ‘Outward Bound’ in 1941. During World War II, Hahn used the tumultuous waters of the North Sea to provide young sailors with the exposure and skills necessary to survive at sea.Thus getting them ready to handle the vicissitudes of war.

The success of this exercise birthed the ‘Outward Bound’ methodology. ‘Outward Bound’ is a nautical term that indicates a ship’s departure from the certainties of the harbor. Interesting term as the only certainty of an unpredictable journey in a volatile sea is left behind in the harbor. In the Outbound training format, the office is comparable to the harbor and the unbridled outdoors is comparable to the sea.

The secret of success of learning through experiences lay in the unique selection and combination of the principles that Hahn believed in and, most importantly, Hahn’s charismatic energy and persuasive ability to put his ideas into action.

Below are some of the key principles of Kurt Hahn’s experiential learning:

Education is about the development of intellect as well as character:
– Hahn believed that the purpose of education should be twofold: the development of both knowledge as well as character. He felt that the concept of experiential learning in nature would provide the experiences to enhance self-esteem, discover untapped innate abilities, and develop a sense of responsibility toward others.

• “Your disability is your opportunity”:
– At the age of 18, Hahn suffered severe sunstroke for which he had a long recuperation period and left a degree of permanent disability that Hahn nurtured for the rest of his life. Hisadage “your disability is your opportunity” became the foundation for his thoughts on experiential learning. Hahn felt that when you are faced with challenges and you are in the depths of despair, at that time you have a great opportunity to either give up or make a decision to grow.

Strengthening physical abilities help people make moral choices:
– Hahn believed that each child is born with innate spiritual powers and the ability to make correct judgments about moral issues. However, in the progression through adolescence, the child loses these abilities because of the ‘diseased society’ and the compulsions of adolescence.Hahn trusted in helping students to strengthen their biological physical abilities, which will help them to overcome natural physical weaknesses. Hence his belief in exposing people to nature that naturally provides the opportunities for each person’s growth.

One phrase Hahn used to sum up his philosophy was, “There is more in You than You think” (plus est en vous).

Having understood the passion and purpose behind Hahn’s thoughts, we at MMM Training Solutions pay him homage through each one of our outbound training programs. Each activity is carefully designed to include the three principles of Hahn and the objective is simply to help an individual discover their inherent capability to handle all the vagaries of life.