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Review: Outdoor management development

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Title: Outdoor Management Development: A Critical Introduction for the Intelligent Practitioner
Author: Willem G Krouwel
Publisher: Institute of Training and Occupational Learning
ISBN: 0-9539790-1-6
Price: £7.99
Reviewer: Mike Taylor

This unimposing book packs quite a punch.

An introduction it is, but it is far from superficial – and no matter how experienced you are in using the outdoors for management development, it should be on your bookshelf. This is because it reminds us of what good learning is all about, and of how we can understand and articulate what we do.

In fact, if you are thinking of buying outdoor management development, or you are even vaguely interested in experiential learning or the development of personal awareness or behaviour, then this book is well worth having to hand.

Bill Krouwel starts with experiential learning, explaining how its theory developed and links to other ideas in psychology. This is clear and straightforward. He then goes on to explore different types and uses of outdoor management development approaches before moving on to the more tangible issues of content, programme design, and some useful end notes and appendices.

Throughout the book, Bill draws upon a wide range of stimulating quotes and useful references, and supplies us with an appropriate smattering of clear models to help give structure and understanding to the theory.

Ideas which are useful and well presented include, the issue of “frontloading” or “isomorphism” (sometimes hard to avoid in design, but so transparently shallow and patronising), the need to emphasise the here and now, and the categorisation of learning outcomes – from short term and specific to long term and non-specific. I could go on.

But there is something else important about this book: It is written in a direct, personal, and refreshing style – clear and down to earth. And when Bill chooses to criticise some aspects of how the outdoors is used, or some attitudes to learning in organisations generally, he can be elegantly disparaging. So, there is humour too – and he is often right.

As I was finishing the book I picked up a glossy HR magazine and noticed it had an article on “the outdoors”.

It was ill-informed, superficial, and (as is often the case) it did no service to its subject matter, or the reader. The body of this book is 54 pages long, it costs a few quid – it is an introduction, it is critical, and it is intelligent – and its worth more than the past 20 years of magazine articles on the subject combined.

For further book reviews see: www.hrzone.co.uk/community/reviews

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Annie Hayes

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