“Could a greater miracle take place, than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”
Henry David Thoreau
What are they?
Discovery Journeys are enquiry-based field trips that take place as part of a leadership development programme. They provide the opportunity for leaders to explore, in person, places or organizations that have relevance to and can provide insight into an aspect of their own organization’s focus on sustainability. These journeys take participants away from their daily routine and allow them to experience their organization or challenge through the lens of different stakeholders.
How do they work?
These journeys might include visits to customers, suppliers, communities or even competitors. Before embarking on the visit the participants discuss their key questions and areas of interest and agree on how they will engage with the people they are going to meet. The conversations are led by the participants and allow them to put into practice their leadership skills whilst exploring a situation or topic from the perspective of others.
A Discovery Journey typically involves visits to a number of different sites to provide a variety of experiences and perspectives. For example, it might start with visiting a place or community that have been negatively affected in some way and then move on to visit places where good work is being done to highlight the opportunities that are available. Discovery Journeys typically conclude with a reflective discussion on what the participants have experienced and ideas for actions they can take within their own organization.
What impact do they have?
A Discovery Journey provides a powerful opportunity for leaders to experience a situation, organization or issue through the ‘eyes of others’. In our current age of information most leaders are aware of the issues that are most material to their organization, however, there’s a big difference between being aware of something and experiencing it first hand. By engaging directly with the people and places that are relevant to their enquiry, leaders engage on both an emotional and rational level. This emotional engagement is fundamental in helping leaders create significant and long-lasting change.
Example Discovery Journeys may involve visiting:
- Organizations in a different sector who have a similar strategic challenge (e.g. the need to innovate from providing products to delivering services)
- Suppliers or customers to get their insight on how the supply chain is working
- Sites of environmental degradation to understand the implications of business for the natural world
- Organizations who have great examples of best practice in preserving the environment or increasing their positive social impact
- Policy makers or trade organizations to understand their perspective and rationale as to why certain decisions are made
- Communities or consumers who are recipients or users of the products or services supplied by the organization.