Changing the game of traditional leadership training and team-building exercises, numerous companies like Nike, Pepsi, and Bank of America are opting for more adrenaline-packed experiences instead of trust falls and mini golf. These extreme workshops can cost as much as $100,000 per session and are becoming increasingly popular among executives.
Unlike the empathy and emotional intelligence-focused training that emerged after the pandemic, this new approach emphasizes hands-on leadership and staying composed under pressure. This shift is evident in prominent tech figures like Mark Zuckerberg, who are trying to adopt a combat-loving, stoic leadership style, and Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky, who is eager for physical battles in the tech world.
“Leaders are trying to regain a sense of control they feel they’ve lost over the last few years,” Cali Williams Yost, a workplace strategist, told the Times. “They’re searching to reassert control and power in a way that feels familiar.”
With teams returning to the office after prolonged isolation, leaders are recognizing the importance of bringing their employees together again. Companies like Squadron and Afterburner are offering unique experiences inspired by military training to foster teamwork and improve performance.
“Unique and challenging activities can help bridge the gaps that hybrid and remote work cause,” Kobi Regev, CEO of management-training company The Squadron, told Insider over email.
Squadron, known for working with big names like IBM, Dell, and Nestle, offers programs based on the training methods of the Israeli Air Force. Participants engage in F-35 flight simulations and debriefings, providing a loop of action and feedback to enhance teamwork. “There are a lot of similarities between combat aviation and the business world,” Regev said. “You need to understand your environment, learn how it works, make mistakes, overcome those mistakes, and work as a team — all while moving at a fast pace.”
The workshop prices start at $390 per person, varying depending on the duration, group size, and specific needs of the customer.
Afterburner, on the other hand, organizes competitions where employees can engage in fighter pilot simulations. Their “Top Gun Experience” training course begins at $10,000 for smaller teams and can go up to $100,000 for larger groups. Comprised of former and current combat officers, Afterburner aims to help corporate teams execute with the precision and accuracy of elite military aviators.
Not all extreme team-building activities are focused on military experiences. Over The Wall Thinking, founded by Andy Papathanassiou, offers training exercises simulating a NASCAR pit stop. Participants learn to remain precise and calm under pressure as they practice exchanging old tires for new ones during NASCAR races. The sessions with Over The Wall Thinking start at $10,000, with costs varying based on group size, training duration, and location.
“NASCAR pit stops are a very simple process that must be performed in a specific order,” Papathanassiou told Insider over email. “This simple, unalterable process serves as an analogy for everything from sales goals and product development cycles in business to personal time management and creating a healthy lifestyle.”