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Inputs and Outcomes of Outdoor Management Development: Of Design, Dogma and Dissonance

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Abstract

Although it is now a multi-million pound international industry, there is continuing scepticism about the benefits of Outdoor Management Development (OMD). This study investigates the impact of participation in an archetypal example of OMD on a cohort of junior managers (n=19). Participants reported changes in a variety of attitudes including, their opinions of themselves, team-working and the theoretical frameworks used to underpin the programme. Analysis of individuals' accounts found associations between participation in particular forms of outdoor training activities and changes in certain categories of attitude. Cognitive dissonance theory is used as a framework to explain these changes. More specifically, we contend that task selection and review-style choices made by providers and sponsors significantly influenced the reactions, sense-making processes and training outcomes reported by participants. This study challenges the design of contemporary OMD programmes that privileges a linear, incremental view of development where one starts with simple tasks of short duration and gradually progresses to longer and more complex activities.

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