Many D&I efforts fall short. Boost the “I” in your D&I.


Sitting atop North Dome and looking at the Yosemite Valley 3,500 feet below, having just processed the emotion and grandeur of this place, it hit me. I realized why companies struggle with D&I (Diversity and Inclusion). They are good with half the equation, the “D” of D&I. The “I” needs a boost.

Before heading to Yosemite, I had spent few weeks meeting and speaking with leaders and executives in companies and nonprofit organizations. One topic consistently came up: their talent, their people, and specifically challenges with morale, engagement, and D&I.

Even the companies many hold in the highest regard and as exemplars—those in the tech sector—are not doing very well, as indicated by the systemic gender bias and pay inequality recently coming to light. Many don’t even appear on Thompson Reuter’s Top 100 Most Diverse and Inclusive Companies Index. Hopefully they will next year!

I dug in and found that many companies, including the “D&I best in class,” do a good job hiring diverse talent—the “D.” Yet the “I” solutions often seem to be good tools to sustain the change they hope for yet fall short of achieving: training (how do you train for D&I?), board structure, mentorship, diversity councils and groups—with something huge still missing. I could not put my finger on it until I got back to the busyness and buzz of the city for my flight home.

The critical piece that is missing is the spark, the catalyst for change and breakthrough at a deep visceral level of each person.


Magic happens out there, out of our element, outside of our comfort zone. That’s where we find the breakthrough in the D&I equation—in the great outdoors.


  • The human brain works differently in the great outdoors. “The frontal lobe, the part of our brain that’s hyper-engaged in modern life, deactivates a little when you are outside,” says author Florence Williams.
  • Both sides of our brain fire up when we move and are active, leading to greater clarity, creativity, and communication.
  • Motion drives emotion. If there is emotion, there is learning impact and stickiness.
  • We move from 2-D (snaps, tweets, “likes,” board rooms, training rooms, virtual learning, talking head learning) to 4-D and experience the world, learn, and grow with all of our senses.
  • In the great outdoors, barriers go down, and openness, team play, and collaboration all increase.
  • When you add a challenge, people help and support each other (regardless of color, creed, or conviction), and the “I” in “D&I” explodes. Bias, whether implicit or unconscious, takes a back seat, and people get to know each other and learn and understand the other’s journey and perspective. Fear of the unknown is replaced by a conversation, curiosity, understanding, and respect. Even if differences still remain—and that’s OK—the breakthrough is made.

The great outdoors and an adventure challenge: this is the catalyst, the spark for change at a visceral level for each person. It may seem small, yet psychologically, this is significant.

How to sustain the change and the breakthrough? With the aforementioned strategies already in play at many companies: job rotations, mentorship, diversity councils, and diversity groups.

And while tapping the power of the great outdoors goes beyond team building activities like ropes courses or trust falls, it does not have to involve a trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro or a bike ride across the U.S. Everyone’s definition of adventure and challenge is different, from one-day outdoor explorations to four-day Grand Canyon treks to epic multi-day adventures of a lifetime across the globe, like Costa Rica coast-to-coast on a road or a mountain bike. You choose, just #getoutside!

Whatever works for you and your team, I am willing to make a bet that tapping the power of the great outdoors will take your D&I efforts as well as strategy execution to the next level!

What do you think? Are you willing to make a bet? 


P.S. With our awesome model, tapping the power of the great outdoors through an adventure challenge often does not cost the company a penny. The investment is creativity, an open and innovative mind. The return on investment? Priceless.


About Adventure for Charity

Adventure for Charity (AFC) is an adventure travel company with a twist and the first company in North America with a unique blend of capabilities in adventure travel, the nonprofit sector, peer-to-peer fundraising, consulting, and health and well-being. AFC is a mission-driven social entrepreneurship outfit that creates a positive impact in the world one adventure challenge at a time by:

  • Helping nonprofit organizations fundraise and engage in a unique way.
  • Improving companies’ employee engagement, health, culture, talent development, and strategic planning.
  • Enabling individuals to get outside, have fun, and do good.

About Adventure Challenges

Adventure challenges are multi-day or single-day adventures and experiences of a lifetime in various disciplines, including hiking, trekking, cycling, mountain biking, and water sports. They:

  • Bring people together to support important causes. 
  • Help nonprofits and companies succeed by leveraging the great outdoors. 
  • Challenge the participants’ physical abilities, creativity, and dedication.
  • Take place at incredible locations around the globe.

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