When the sun is out, you can’t see the moon and stars, says Tarun Chandna (35). It’s one of the rules applied to activities such as trekking, rock climbing and mountain biking. “In our programmes, we let each of the members speak and write about their experiences and thoughts. At the end of it, every person has something to learn. Those who spoke most will come away thinking they should have listened more and not dominate the discussion. And the shy sorts who opened up come away feeling they should talk more.”
That’s iDiscoveri’s outdoor education which promises many ‘I did it’ moments to boost confidence and self-esteem of students, teachers and corporate executives. And that’s not all. All are challenges by choice, like a 25-year-old deciding to climb a 30-foot rock or tie a knot and build a bridge of a certain length. It’s another way of setting a target and achieving it. The third and most important concept applied is of Harvard psychologist Dr Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. “Traditionally, intelligence is defined in a very limited sense: how well an individual answered questions on an intelligence test,” says Chandna. “Statistical data from the test provided an indicator of the individual’s intelligence. This score was referred to as an intelligence quotient or IQ. The test items, however, addressed a narrow range of intellectual functioning, usually limited to the subject’s linguistic and mathematical skills.”
Gardner defines intelligence in a broader sense. He says every individual possesses eight relatively autonomous mental abilities or ‘intelligences’. Says Chandna: “Though the eight intelligences overlap and work in concert with each other, specific characteristics can be associated with each intelligence area. You probably see your child having natural interests or skills in one or more of these eight areas.”
Gardner’s eight areas of intelligence are verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, musical, physio-kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist. Gardner also says that all individuals possess each of the eight intelligence areas to varying degrees.
What the iDiscoveri workshop does is exactly the same – stretch the mind by new experiences so it never goes back to its old dimensions. And that is accomplished by making the participants realise their strengths and build on them through a variety of activities including white water rafting, rifling, photography, theatre, aero modelling and life expedition (a 10-day altitude programme for 14 to 17-year-olds). Says Chandna: “For example, a ballet dancer displays a combination of physio-kinaesthetic, musical and visual-spatial intelligences.”
What sets iDiscoveri apart is its follow-up training. “We translate the activity back to their life, like identifying the rock they need to climb in their life,” says Chandna. “After the 7-day workshop, children write an action plan on an inland letter, like writing two things they will go back and do which they haven’t done. I mail them the letter after three months as a reminder of what they had set out to do.”
And the creative think tank behind iDiscoveri comprises people from Harvard University, INSEAD (France), Indian Institute of Management and Xavier Labour Relations Institute in Jamshedpur. “Out of the 30 core people, 40 per cent are management graduates and 20 per cent hold doctorates,” says Chandna. “We have a pool of 200 people who are part of our extended family, including well known people like Jayant Kriplani and Trilotamma (who played the maid in Monsoon Wedding).”
Founded by him and four friends (Ashish Rajpal, Gaurav Saklanie, Ronny Gulati and Lokesh Jindal) in 1996, the idea took root in 1993. But before that could materialise, they ganged up to open an ad agency for below-the-line advertising like putting up glow signs and holding rain dances and treasure hunts for the corporates. Some of their clients included Seagrams, Citibank, Nestle and Smithkline. And with the money generated, iDiscoveri was born. Today, over 6,000 children and 3,000 corporate executives have experienced their programmes (some of the companies include Oracle, ITC Infotech and Ernst & Young). Says Chandna, who has been mentored in this field by three behaviour scientists: “Much of our methodology is from our experience of attending similar Outward Bound workshops in Singapore and reading up on related books. Besides my optional subject at XLRI was human resources whereas Ashish’s was business management.
And iDiscoveri satiates him. “I joined iDiscoveri to get from the hurried material lifestyle of today. All of us are all-rounders. We have one skill besides working with children. Like I am good at start-ups (the Bangalore branch is headed by him). And I am also one of the instructors.”
When Chandna is not iDiscovering, he is cruising the white waters atleast a dozen times in a year and going on treks twice a year for a week or ten days. And that is, when he is not watching soccer on TV or listening to Jethro Tull, Dave Brubeck and the Beatles. Not to mention curling up with books by Douglas Adams, John Lloyd, Louis L’Amour and Tom Robbins.
If you want to do it, iDiscoveri style, email: [email protected]
(First published in City Reporter in 2003)
UPDATE: Now iDiscoveri is renamed Xseed Education with the tagline: Foundation for Life. Their website: http://xseededucation.com.