Yesterday our team finished the ninth and final lesson in the Come Alive Outside training challenge. Come Alive Outside is the name Jim Paluch of JP Horizons has coined for an exciting program aimed at encouraging people to spend more time outdoors in the landscape. Jim believes the benefits could be massive and there are no better advocates to lead this growing movement than those in the landscape industry. Since the program’s inception, he has been enthusiastically persuading industry leaders to call their communities to “Come out to play!”
One of the Come Alive Outside initiatives is a challenge to landscape professionals to spend one hour a week for nine weeks exploring as a team the effects of everyone having more of the outdoors in their lives. Teams use a well-developed Action Guide to give each week a focus and trajectory. The course material starts by building awareness about the dangers of the sedentary, indoor lifestyle that many of us are living versus the benefits of spending time outdoors. It then moves to motivating participants to do something about it and promises the opportunity to “capture business opportunities today by creating a better world for tomorrow.”
Although we are not a landscaping company, it is one of the industries we serve and we took on the Come Alive Outside Training Challenge as an exercise to better understand our clients and the market they serve. We ended up benefiting ourselves in many other, somewhat unexpected ways:
We discovered the strength of our own shared connection to the outdoors. Almost without exception, our favourite childhood memories revolve around the mud, grass, rocks, crawly things, bikes, hikes, and a whole host of other ways we messed about outside.
We got to know each other better. Is that even possible after spending 8 hours together everyday? Yes. Come Alive Outside forced us to look up from our screens and have a new kind of conversation with each other.
We discovered new leadership skills within our organization. Almost everyone on our team had the opportunity to lead at least one session and everyone did exceptionally well due in large part, I think, to the excellent support materials developed and provided by motivational experts Jim and Andy Paluch.
We developed our brainstorming process further. One of the most tangible ways Come Alive Outside has made a mark is the installation of a 16’ X 8’ whiteboard in our office. We haven’t exactly managed to move our work outside yet, but now we can look up from our screens and trade our keyboards for coloured markers for at least part of our creative process.
The program also left us with some unresolved questions to mull over:
- Is it necessary to spend money to realize the benefits of being outside?
- What is the relationship between dollars spent on landscaping services vs. time spent outdoors?
- Do those who spend more money actually spend more time outdoors?
- Is landscaping not still a luxury for most people?
- Is there really a compelling business opportunity here?
We believe there is an opportunity, but it’s not entirely clear what it looks like at this point. One thing we’re pretty clear on is that the business opportunity attached to this movement will require contractors and industry leaders to have new ideas and develop new products and services to meet new needs. This also means that in the near future the landscaping industry will be telling new stories.
We’re happy to already be a small part of that story.