Getting Out of the Box and Into the Round Pen ~ An Innovative Approach to Creative Thinking in Leadership

Key Concept ~ I frequently speak about the strategic imperative of expanding creative thinking throughout every touch point of an organization in today’s business environment.  Adaptive challenges, challenges in which we do not currently have the answers, confront our society beyond the business world as well.  Our firm recently conducted a series of workshops for therapists and counselors from the Veterans’ Administration, the Department of Youth Services and a shelter for abused women in rural Missouri.  An economically challenged area that endemically leads the nation in meth amphetamine lab seizures.  These highly motivated professionals, from resource-constrained agencies, are facing unprecedented challenges.  I’d like to share some of their feedback from their experience of getting out of the box and into the round pen.

We recently returned from an extended engagement with a client in Missouri who brought us in to provide a series of training workshops in our approach to Equine Facilitated Learning/Therapy for their greater community.  Our primary objective was to create a foundation for the expansion of our Warriors in Transition program for veterans and their families. Rural America has borne a disproportionate burden in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the VA was simply not prepared nor positioned to suddenly handle two million veterans returning home once these conflicts have wound down.  PTSD and/or PTSD/TBI is effecting upwards of 400,000 combat veterans returning from these conflicts.  Truly unprecedented challenges the VA will be dealing with for the next forty to fifty years.

The societal challenges, exacerbated by the recent economic shift and downturn, extend deep into many of our communities.  During one session with teenage boys from the county detention facility, I found myself facing an eleven year old boy.  An eleven year old, sparkling eyed, intelligent and engaged boy incarcerated with seventeen year old, multiple offenders.  The counselors from the department shared their frustration and seemingly impossible task of trying to get these young people onto the right path and then returning them to the environment that has set their downward trajectory.

Now, our approach to Equine Facilitated Learning isn’t what one would necessarily call conventional.  It is however, based in peer-reviewed, scientific research that points to what is occurring within us neurologically, biochemically and psychologically during our ground-based exercises with the horses.  Most importantly, it is efficacious in creating a powerful, experiential shift in perspective.  By integrating novel, scientific concepts that are then experienced first-hand with a horse in a round pen delivers an immutable response in participants.

In doing so, we open the door for rational cognition that enables the experiential learning exercise to imprint a kinesthetic lesson with the client.  Our novel, yet grounded approach, empowers people to get off the dance floor and into the balcony, opening them up to exploring creative ways of approaching adaptive challenges.  The discovery of one’s ability to co-create and achieve a goal with a 1,200 pound, sentient being, simply through the use of one’s presence, intention and self-regulation typically makes a lasting impression as to what we are truly capable of creating and becoming if only we first bring ourselves into alignment.

Here are some of the comments from the licensed counselors and therapists that attended our workshops:

“Information was useful and presented some different, creative ways to approach therapy.  I expect several clients will be responsive to this type of workshop…”

“He [the co-facilitator] made me feel comforable and open to learning new information.  I think this workshop would be very beneficial for the clients I serve.  I think many of them would benefit greatly from it”

“Don’t know if that its ‘the’ answer for everybody, but I can think of a number of people for whom this would be really relevant, really helpful and for whom I would highly recommend it.  It hits all the right notes for so many people who come through my office.”

“Very good for relaxing, creating an open atmosphere to learn intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.  I was surprised at the intuitive understanding that emerged without the use of words being necessary.”

“I think it would be a great experience for the youth and help build their confidence.  I loved that the approach is nonjudgemental and very de-stressing.”

“This would be an amazing workshop to conduct with my clients.  Meeting the herd, boundary exercises and round pen exercises were/would be very helpful.  I think this would plant a seed of hope for my clients!”

The adaptive challenges we face in business pale in comparison to the challenges these remarkable professionals are wrestling with every day.  If our approach was this powerful for them, just imagine what it might deliver for your organization!

© 2012, Terry Murray.

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Filed under Experiential Learning, Health Care, Organizational Culture

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