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Monday, January 23, 2017

A Crash Course in Team Building

We just returned from a vacation that included air miles and sailing on the ocean. Any such travel has risks. We’ve experienced significant turbulence while on jets and cruise liners. Fortunately, not on this trip!

Stories about planes crashing into water have been made into movies. Sinking of big ships have been put on film as well. Perhaps the most well known is Titanic.

Would you believe there is money to be made by simulating the terror from a plane crash into the water? There is. An interesting New York Times story is titled, “Need Better Morale in the Workplace? Simulate a Plane Crash.”

The tale is woven of eight people who endeavored to survive mock plane crashes at an indoor pool just before Thanksgiving last year. These were all clients of Survival Systems USA, based in Groton, Connecticut. The company has been teaching aquatic survival since 1999. Usually, the people pushed to endure this are from airlines, the military, and rescue services, such as police and fire departments.

But the company has found a new market for this experience. Maria C. Hanna, the president of Survival Systems USA, noticed some residual effects in teaching survival skills, such as improved morale and self esteem. People were stretching their capabilities. She sees people advancing themselves in new ways.

This is NOT for the faint of heart. The company uses a Modular Egress Training Simulator which can be arranged to resemble the cockpit of a helicopter or small plane. A crane lifts the simulator up and then lowers it into a pool. The equipment can generate rain, darkness, 120-mile-per-hour winds, smoke, and fire. Sounds fun, huh?

The eight pre-Thanksgiving warriors were dressed in flight suits, water shoes, and helmets. After some preliminaries, the eight were strapped into the simulator, submerged, and flipped. They were coached on how to get out. Everyone does, but in these exercises, panic is common. Some people back out before the actual testing begins.

Greg Drab, the owner of Advantage Personal Training of Mystic, Connecticut, had some staff go through the course. They were not paying the full fare of $950, but Drab said it would be worth it. He noted, “You get to see how people handle stressful situations. This unifies the team.”

Merrick Rosenberg, chief executive at Team Builders Plus, puts this kind of training in the “extreme experiences” category. He sees the value of Survival Systems classes as good for team bonding—learning trust, communication, and leadership. He also notes groups that prefer this kind of experience would often include lawyers and people in sales, public relations, and marketing. He adds to that list: millennials.

Personally, I think an early and cheaper testing ground on handling risk and fear is to go to Six Flags. See who is willing to jump on the fastest and most dangerous rides. Watch who screams and who doesn’t.

On the grand scale, people of faith realize fear has been put in its place. The writer of Hebrews said, “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”(Hebrews 13:6, ESV)

And that is certainly true. But please don’t put me in a cockpit, underwater, trying to kick out a window to survive.

Team building around a pizza will do just fine, thank you.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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