I am writing to convey concern about Iain Murray’s article “Outward bound to failure” (MW January 13). Not only is the re- search, conducted by myself and Dr Sue Newell of Warwick University, misrepresented but the information is incorrect. I reside at the School of Sport & Exercise Sciences not the Department of Psychology. The use of such phrases as “commando-style” and “assault courses” is also quite inappropriate.
Furthermore, you are inconsistent when you state you do not know how we “came up with the idea of observing business executives” and then go on to report, quite correctly, that we were actually observing post-graduate students. These students, incidentally, were from the University of Birmingham, not “Warwickshire Business School”.
We did report that teams that “lost” went away feeling that the course had not been as beneficial as they had expected it to be and that they thought they were working less well as a team at the end of the course than at the beginning. However, I fail to see how this translates to “they went away harbouring deep resentment at their humiliation and nurturing homicidal fantasies about the winners”.
May I also point out that Outward Bound is a registered trademark of one particular provider and that it is dangerous to use this as a generic term. As an organisation, Outward Bound does not tend to use competition for the purposes of development because it would be contrary to the philosophy of founder Kurt Hahn. The simile between life and an “outward bound” course is therefor incorrect.
The annual course in question has been modified and future courses will not include a competitive element.
Adrian Ibbetson and Dr Sue Newell
The University of Birmingham and Warwick Business School,
Birmingham and Warwick