Mark Wilcox has spent a good deal of time “team-building” on a raft in the Snake River and wearing a backpack in the Tetons. In his recent article, “Adventure team-building brings out the best,” he highlights several organizations, including NASA who have used wilderness leadership pursuits to develop team work. Imagine working on the International Space Station, having to live in such close proximity with a team of other people for weeks at a time. That requires a unique team. The wilderness helps groups quickly work through interpersonal and problem-solving issues to efficiently establish cohesiveness.

team building

Climbing Mt. Cassidy with Joel & Jacob (Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand) Making a decision about the route.


Things go wrong and problems arise frequently in the wilderness. And NASA knows that the same is true about space. In the backcountry, the climate changes, the weather doesn’t cooperate, the terrain you face throws you a curveball, which might mean hours of backtracking or choosing to re-route. These natural scenarios are a brilliant way to build teams and teach them how to improvise, unify, and make rapid and thorough decisions. These are qualities that NASA wants every team of astronauts to have.


I think you would enjoy Mark’s article, which is full of great examples that illustrate how the backcountry is an unparalleled classroom for teaching leadership, team building, and rapid decision-making.

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