Initially designed and used within the military to train new recruits, often Marines, Bootcamps are known for being a highly intensive and a rigorous form of training. Information is compressed into a shorter time frame and delivered at a much faster pace. From a military viewpoint, this approach increases the pressure on new recruits and is designed to assess what new recruits are made of.
The very word Bootcamp has all kinds of innuendos, more intensive, highly challenging, designed to break rather than enhance, uncomfortable and even, suggestive that you might get the boot, either by being booted out, or booted up the behind by an instructors boot if you don’t perform. There is more of a sense of succeed or fail about a Bootcamp.
Given the essence of Bootcamps it is interesting, that this high impact and aggressive style of learning has found its way into soft skills development, where it is especially popular within the scope of management and leadership training. This has most likely been driven by the need to reduce the amount of time leaders spend away from the workplace, rather than the draw of the Bootcamp style.
From a programme designer’s point of view, unless a lot of care is taken, designing a Bootcamp breaks all of the rules for preparing learning which is supportive, delegate focussed and appropriate to different learning styles.
So what are the guidelines for developing such courses to ensure the learners experience is managed appropriately and effectively?
When we reduce the overall learning time,
but reserve trainer input and learning models within the content, we are in danger of impacting negatively on delegate thinking and reflection time. This can soon turn a would-be participative programme into an all-day lecture. Counter-balance this by introducing clearly defined learning objectives centred around delegate project/s.
Once the learning objectives are established
Be choosey about the learning models that are included, this really is a time to pick only the most appropriate and easily transferable input. If a more complex model has to be used then provide pre-event learning.
Trainer input must never be any more than 10 minutes at a time.
Multiple trainers will add a broader range of input and provide additional delegate support. Ensure everything is well planned and keep the pace fast and furious, whilst assessing as you go that delegates are keeping up.
Be mindful of emotions coming to the surface.
Delegates who are being pushed are more included to have emotions spilling over, particularly if they feel they cannot achieve what is being asked of them.
Bootcamp projects must be realistic,
Ideally within the context of the attendees’ roles and clearly linked with formal input. Delegates need to know the link and ‘why’ they are being asked to complete a project. Avoid anything childish, keep away from bridge building, hardly the right project for an intensive Bootcamp.
Ensure a challenge;
Design projects so that learners think they cannot be achieved within the given Bootcamp time. Within the workplace, many managers inhibit their own achievements by casting aside new innovations or not taking up challenges which they feel they haven’t time for. The reality is often very different.
Focus on how to keep the learning alive.
If possible, have delegate groups continue projects post programme, prepare project objectives for part one and part two and schedule a follow-up meeting
Ensure project outcomes can be readily evaluated;
This creates a sense of delegate achievement. Outcomes can also be used for ROI / ROE (return on investment / expectation). Where possible make outcomes public.
Meaningful wrap-ups are essential
On Bootcamps, delegates need to know how far they have travelled and what is next, it is important that the event doesn’t just fizzle out and close.