There are many different ways to approach a team-building programme, depending on what sort of emotions you want your staff to absorb during the bonding process. Right at the far end of the scale are the so-called “extreme incentives”, which tap into the sheer adrenaline rush that taking part in a radical or ostensibly “risky” activity injects into the experience. We take a look at a few that are certain get your heart racing.
1. STUNTMAN TRAINING
What is it? Fulfill your dream of being an action hero in a workshop that teaches professional skills – combining the thrills of death-defying physical feats with stunt driving, pyrotechnics and even aspects of film work. Discover proper techniques commonly used by stunt professionals around the world through various hands-on tutorials, including punching and falling, dagger fighting, sword fighting and abseiling.
Normally organised by special events companies, these programmes are tailored to the facilities available – you can learn basic kung fu in Hong Kong or China, high-flying stunts in the US, or an ancient sword-fighting art in India. Participants gain an insight into one of the most rigorous but little-known industries in the world, and what better way to do that than trying it yourself.
Suitable group size: A ratio of five people to every stuntman is advised, while the recommended group size is roughly 30 to 40 people.
Recommended age: 21 to 40 years old, decent physical fitness required.
Available in: Film academies in the US, China and India, and specialised stunt institutions.
Extreme factor: 9/10 and higher – for daredevils ready for anything!
What is it? Race alone or as a pair in this heart-pounding winter sport, a mainstay in every Winter Olympics. Originally used as a mode of transport in Arctic terrains, bobsledding has evolved into one of the most thrilling sports around, with competitors zipping along an icy track at exhilarating speeds.
Bobsleds are not powered by any form of motor; instead, the kinetic energy stems from the gravitational forces harnessed through the sharp, steep turns they make – some points of the track are almost perpendicular to the ground. The speed of the sled, combined with its proximity to the icy ground, provides an adrenaline rush like no other. Groups work as teams to plan strategies and maximise aerodynamics, then race against other teams in a bid to post the fastest time and emerge kings of the ice.
Suitable group size: Eight to 24, preferably divided into groups of two or four people each.
Recommended age: 21 to 45 years old.
Available in: Germany, US and Switzerland.
Extreme factor: 8/10
3. HOSTAGE RESCUE
What is it? A team competition of intense proportions. Two teams take up one role each – terrorists and counter-terrorists. The counter-terrorist team attempts to break into the terrorist stronghold and save the hostages held within, while the terrorists defend the location until their getaway car arrives.
Usually, the two teams switch roles after the first round but if numbers are limited, organisers can double up as the opposing team as well. Replica weapons (paintball guns, nerf guns or laser tag guns), uniforms and other props are provided, and personalised gear is also encouraged as long as it does not compromise safety. For an even bigger thrill, some special events companies can arrange for a helicopter or a speedboat to add further excitement to the covert operation.
Suitable group size: Eight to 16 people.
Recommended age: 18 to 55 years old.
Available in: UK and US.
Extreme factor: 6/10
4. FIGHTER JET FLYING
What is it? The experience of flight is unlike any other – especially when you’re hurtling past snowy mountain peaks at speeds of up to 700km/h and simultaneously doing crazy stunts like barrel rolls, twisty loops and 90-degree nosedives. While this is still a rather exclusive activity available in only a few countries (where there are less stringent rules governing the usage of old fighter planes), facilitators guarantee it’s a sure-fire way to “blow the socks off staff members”.
The day starts with a pre-flight briefing and safety instruction session. You suit up in fighter pilot gear before jumping right into the cockpit with the instructor and proceeding into the nervy, anticipation phase as the plane taxis to the runway for takeoff. Bundles of nerves turn into exhilaration as the jet accelerates to maximum speed, providing a bird’s-eye view of beautiful countryside and endless, azure horizons. Each flight lasts up to 20 minutes, although it may feel like a mere 20 seconds after landing!
Suitable group size: Planes can only take one instructor and one visitor at a time, so keeping the group small (around five to 10 participants) will help avert a long wait.
Recommended age: 21 to 45 years old – not advisable for people with a fear of heights.
Available in: Lithuania and Australia.
Extreme factor: 10/10 – not for the faint-hearted!
What is it? An adventure activity that requires a group to work together closely, while remaining sharp and quick-witted, as they navigate their way through winding canyons, gorges, waterfalls and other treacherous natural formations. Methods used to traverse the natural labyrinth include climbing, scrambling, jumping, abseiling and even swimming.
Other methods like rafting and even river-surfing are also taught as the trainers attempt to bring out the inner Bear Grylls in everyone. Groups never scale the same canyon twice, and the unpredictability is probably the biggest challenge. Improvisation is essential, as is deciding and agreeing on a course of action within the team.
Suitable group size: Five to eight people.
Recommended age: Anyone older than 12, although the difficulty of the canyons must be scaled down accordingly to cater for children or the elderly.
Available in: New Zealand, Costa Rica and the US.
Extreme factor: 5/10 up to 9/10 (in difficult canyons).
What is it? A fairly obscure sport, originating in New Zealand, that has seen its popularity snowball (pun intended) in recent years. Participants are strapped into a clear, spongy sphere like a hamster ball – they can choose to do it as a group or in individual balls – and rolled down steep landscapes at frightening speeds. Most Zorb spheres are designed to be usable on different terrain from hills to sand and even on water, as long as there is wide and open space available.
Each ride lasts an average of one minute and the Zorb can operate in all weather (warm water for water rides is available on request). While it might not sound like much, just note that when the ball starts rolling, there are no brakes – it only stops when it hits something or runs out of momentum. Do not fret, however, as the shockproof globes will bounce harmlessly off all kinds of treacherous pointed objects.
Suitable group size: From five to 25 people, although keeping the group small will allow quicker turns and more enjoyment.
Recommended age: 21 to 35 years old – the activity is certainly not for people who don’t like disorientation!
Available in: New Zealand, the US and Guam. The original creators of Zorb globe riding, Zorb, currently only run in these countries; be weary of imitations that have poor safety protocols.
7. HIGH ROPES COURSES
What is it? The ultimate test of trust, these intricate obstacle courses are set high up in tree canopies, consisting of convoluted old rubber tire mazes and complex rope systems that require both analytical skill and the combined physical strength of a team to overcome.
There are two distinct types of courses: one is built around nature, carved and interconnected with the surrounding trees and natural formations; the other is made up mostly of massive man-made structures. Both serve the same purpose, although man-made courses hold a larger variety of obstacles that can be specifically built to make challenges more group-orientated. For groups wanting to stay closer to the ground, but still interested in testing themselves, alternative Low Ropes courses are available.
Suitable group size: Teams of four to eight can be formed and races can be organised to add an element of competition.
Recommended age: 18 to 55 years old.
Available in: Thailand, the UK and Singapore. Their increasing popularity has seen major theme parks like Disney World adding High Ropes courses to their venues.
Extremity: 3/10 for Low Ropes courses; 7/10 for High Ropes courses.