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Academy offers adventure to corporates for leadership training

KRIS RUYAPORN believes leadership can be taught through rock climbing.

The leadership trainer at the Asia Pacific Innovation Centre bought a 111-rai (17.75-hectare) piece of agriculture land in Kanchanaburi about three and a half years ago and turned it into a playground for company executives to discover their leadership potential.

To date, Kris said his Rai Jai Yim academy has provided adventurous leadership-training courses to about 20 organisations including Banpu, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, GlaxoSmithKline (Thailand), Royal Canin (Thailand), the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cerebos (Thailand), Osotspa, Kasikorn Securities, Volvo Asia Pacific, and Tanyarak Hospital.

He said tools often offered by consulting firms could theoretically help executives find their own strengths and weaknesses, but learning through "stretch experiences" had proved to be more effective.

Kris cited the "Tri-Fold Path of Leadership" concept of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which emphasises "stretch experiences" as one of the three avenues for leadership |learning, besides attending classes and coaching and mentoring. According to the US business school's website, more than 500 |students pursuing a master's degree in business administration took |part in 13 leadership ventures in 2011-12, including an Antarctica expedition and Kilimanjaro mountaineering.

Kris's Rai Jai Yim ("Smiley Heart Farm") boot camp offers 16 "mission impossible" activities, including a rock-climbing challenge, innovative catapult building, team fusion cooking, and "mini-Everest mountaineering". The outdoor programme is part of a curriculum that also includes leadership profile tests, classroom courses, coaching and mentoring, and follow-up sessions in Bangkok.

So far, Kris has done little marketing for his Rai Jai Yim other than relying on the word-of-mouth recommendations of his clients. The leadership training camp, nevertheless, is gaining interest among educational institutes, including Chulalongkorn University and Suankularb Wittayalai School, that want to develop young leaders.

Outdoor programmes are well matched to young people who love challenges, he said.

"Chula will begin sending lecturers and leaders of student clubs to our camp in July. The first objective is to help their students discover their own 'sweet spots' and apply these into action."

Kris said he was also planning to publish an English-language book, "Happineering All the Way to Success", which could be used as a way to tap overseas clients interested in flying to Thailand to enjoy the beautiful scenery of his upcountry boot camp while honing their leadership skills.

Varoj Limjaroon, senior vice president for human resources at Banpu, who recently led a team from the energy firm to Rai Jai Yim, said all of the programme's activities were designed with tactical clues for learning and application and all facilitators were really professional.

"As a result, all participants were able to learn and gain a lot of benefits in terms of team building, team relationships, and being open-minded, through the programme's cross-functional working tasks. In addition, they could unleash their potential by doing new things they had not experienced before," he said.

Peter T Thanyawong, chief executive of Kamnuan Karn, who recently took part in the "CEO Happineering Family Camp" held at Rai Jai Yim with families of other executives, said he strongly recommended the programme because "family is always everything".

"During the almost 30 years of my professional career, I have joined hundreds of corporate programmes on leadership, management, teamwork, creativity, blah blah, with my colleagues and staff. But the CEO Happineering Family Camp at Rai Yai Yim is the first programme I have done with my family," he said.


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