Monday, November 10, 2008 by Dave Blum

So there I was in Dubai, half way through a program, and my bag (with all the treasure hunt clues for stage 2) is in a taxi cab, somewhere in the United Arab Emirates.

If I was in a true “developing country”, my goose would probably have been cooked.  Fortunately, fast-developing Dubai ­ is more Beverly Hills than Bhutan. Just about everything in the Emirates is geared towards the needs of the rich and famous (of which I am neither). Thus do I hurry over to the nearest hotel bellman and explain my plight. “I need your help tracking down a cab driver. Yes, I know, there are hundreds of drivers here in Dubai. Is there any way to find him?!” A quick scan of the cab receipt (a lucky thing I’d asked for it) reveals the name of the taxi company.  “Let me call them,” my bellman shrugs.  “No promises.”  Ten torturous minutes later, he returns to inform me that the cab company has miraculously found my driver! He is 20 minutes away but will return to me “soon”, ­ with my bag (and my reputation!).

Twenty minutes of course become forty; this is Dubai, after all, a city with some of the most gridlocked streets to be found anywhere in the world (a rail system is under construction but still years away). Eventually my cab driver rolls on in (disturbingly nonchalant, I might add!). Off we plunge into the noontime traffic, inching our way ­ painfully ­ towards the Planet Hollywood lunch spot. In the end, I bustle into the restaurant just as my group is finishing their meal.  I’ve made it  — in time for stage two of the hunt!   Needless to say, I don’t get much to eat that day, apart from some crow, perhaps. But my scrambling has paid off.

As a trainer (of corporate team building activities or otherwise), you absolutely must plan ahead. But there are also times when the unexpected happens and you have to think on your feet.  My Dubai program should have gone according to clockwork; I had certainly planned ahead.  The fact that it all nearly went a-cropper has as much to do with serendipity as with my own inattentiveness. My takeaways:

1) Anticipate problems to the best of your abilities.
2) Stay focused on the present as much as possible, all throughout the event.
3) Expect that there will be unanticipated snafus.
4) Trust your ability to adapt and respond.