Whether looking to build employee morale or get an intact team or group to work together with a new understanding of teamwork and cooperation, a challenge course experience can transform your team or group. Outdoor ropes course and challenge course programs get your team out of the workplace and into an unfamiliar setting to to work together to solve problems. Challenge courses offer a  new way of thinking about professional development because it gets at the heart of the human experience by asking your fellow group members to understand themselves and their peers — and then to use that new insight to solve complex problems, and then to take the newly learned interpersonal skills back into the workplace to apply them to your operations. Done properly, team-building on a challenge course can be a turning point for your group.

Challenge Courses: An Overview

In general, a challenge course is like an obstacle course for adults — but one that comes with more than just physical fitness benefits. A challenge course is typically a series of physical challenges that a team must work together at completing. Challenge courses often have elements of difficulty that may cause some participants to experience sense of fear. For example, a high ropes course may feel particularly scary for people who have a fear of heights. In a well-run challenge course, instructors will coach participants through their fears and encourage teamwork that leads to all members successfully working through the task at hand.

Challenge courses are varied, though many contain adventurous elements such as a ropes course, zip line and other physical tasks like climbing walls, hiking, rescue scenarios and more.  Challenge courses may be set up in indoor or outdoor environments.

High ropes courses are some of the most popular choices for team building, in part because the average person has never tried one before. This allows all members of your team to face something novel and unknown together. Low ropes courses (often called teams courses) are on or just slightly above ground level, often consisting of activities like climbing a rope net, navigating a maze and helping partners through obstacles together. High ropes courses are farther off the ground and require participants to learn basic rope safety techniques to use their harnesses and other equipment properly.

Goals and Objectives of Challenge Courses

Whether you choose high ropes, low ropes or something else entirely, a good challenge course program is about more than just learning to climb or having fun outside. Each course will have established goals and objectives for participants. For example, nearly all courses require some form of teamwork, and the challenges are not considered “complete” until all members have done their part. Some courses emphasize trust building, while others may be geared toward honing problem-solving skills, defining team roles determining personal strengths and weaknesses, or understanding what makes each other tick.

To meet these objectives, your team will work with a trained instructor who not only teaches the physical skills needed for the challenge course but also helps participants work through problem-solving and interpersonal relationships together. After each activity and at the end of the day the facilitators will also provide time and guidance for reflection and offer help in putting lessons to good use back in the workplace.

To choose the right challenge course for your employees or group, be sure to read and understand the objective and goals when researching different programs. This will allow you to pick a facility or course that’s in line with your expectations and that has a curriculum that will give your team what they most need out of their professional development. Regardless of the program we recommend you choose one that is affiliated and inspected to the standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT).