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What Happens at a Digital Bootcamp, Stays in a Digital Bootcamp

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The early morning mist was moving around my feet and eyes as I crossed the bridge to Sweden's Karlskrona military prison. It was difficult to see anything and I kept thinking of that horror movie by Martin Scorcese, Shutter Island.

Rather like Leonardo DiCaprio in that film, I was nervous and I knew I had three intensive days in front of me. This wasn't my idea of fun but it was a new experience and however gruelling it would be, I was going to make the most of it.

Fortunately I hadn't been arrested or sentenced to some jail-time for piracy on the Swedish seas, I was here by choice. I was to be part of a digital boot-camp where I would be joined by some of the world's top marketing talent that would be taught how to bring together product, technology and media.

The boot-camp was arranged by technology agency LBi who had engaged 'change management' company Hyper Island to run the course using methods that had been used on the Swedish military. Hyper Island don't just run courses here, they have offices in the US, UK, Canada and Sweden, but the story is the same.

The idea was to bring together the agency's key people with clients and affiliated agencies to face a series of challenges and tasks that would take them away from their regular comfort zones and into 'uncomfortable situations' where they would be forced to be innovative and creative. A Swedish garrison prison seemed to fit that criteria quite nicely.

On arrival I met the 30 people who I would be spending all of my weekend with and was told that we would be undergoing a form of 'digital therapy' that would test us to the limit. We would working together on the island for 12 hours per day, we would be eating together and were warned that "what happened on Hyper Island stayed on Hyper Island."

Naturally I won't breach confidentiality on the reactions of people who confessed to their professional limitations and how they reacted under pressure, but for the next 12 hours we were all tested. Brands as diverse as Johnson & Johnson, Virgin Atlantic, Coca-Cola, Sony Ericsson as well as LBi were on the course so there was no lack of experience.

Whether it was working as a group 'eluding' crocodiles or drawing pictures revealing our potential neuroses it was a tough first day. The food was excellent, broths and soups that any prisoner would have been glad of. We were also encouraged to eat the fruit on offer for energy. In those circumstances a banana works better than coffee.

That night exhaustion and adrenalin slept uneasily and then it was back our tasks. This time the day was lightened by some extraordinary presentations from intellectuals and creative genii, as we swapped groups and eventually met everybody who was on the course.

By the third day, it was clear that some truths were coming out as the group struggled to come to terms with the intensity of the experience. But, sometime before the conclusion of our experience there was a group epiphany that made it all worth it.

Then it was all over and a boat took us away in the mist that had now settled across the evening. But instead of being whisked back to our hotel, we were taken to an wonderful restaurant within the archipelago of islands near the prison.

Then it was time to relax and drink and eat as champions as several participants became very close indeed. This had been no creeping horror of Shutter Island after all, for some it was Fantasy Island, but as I said, what happens on a digital bootcamp, stays on a digital bootcamp.

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