Forty years ago, when I founded Impact, I had no intention of building and managing a global business. I just wanted to earn a living from doing what I love – helping people to realise their full potential through experiential learning.
This was and still is my life’s mission, based on a promise I made to myself at age sixteen when returning from a four-week Outward Bound course in Wales. I embarked on that experience as a shy, unconfident kid. Confused about what I wanted from life and completely unaware of what I was capable of, I discovered first-hand what happens when you are pushed out of your comfort zone with challenge and support.
Returning home as a changed man, my view of the world and my place within it was completely transformed. I recognised I had far more potential than I originally thought possible. I made a commitment to myself there and then – to focus my life on helping others to confront the fear that holds them back and to become authentic in their relationships with others.
I believe that all people are inherently good. In my view, many of the problems we find in the world and in business emanate from fear, a lack of authenticity and arrogance: Fear of failure. Fear of being honest. Fear of punishment. Fear of giving or receiving feedback. Fear of speaking out. Fear of authority. Fear of being real. Arrogance itself often stems from fear.
I studied to be a teacher at college, majoring in adventure education, and worked at a range of personal development centres to build my experience and knowledge, but something was still missing.
In 1980, with a couple of friends, Impact was founded. This represented the culmination of everything we had learned and pioneered in adventure education and experiential learning. We created a practice that enabled people to learn about themselves, to make informed decisions about how they would like to change, and then, in a safe environment, to experiment with new behaviours in an intentional manner. Engage – Learn – Change!
Originally, we did this through immersive experiences in the outdoors – a medium I am still passionate about, where individuals and teams are confronted with the results of their own actions in a powerful and memorable way. Many people reading this will recall attending an early-days Impact programme and the life-long lessons they learned.
As Impact’s work developed and we explored different methodologies, our clients encouraged us to grow and explore new markets globally. We soon realised that making real change in the world involves engaging with organisations and the people who choose to work for them. Our mission extended to helping organisations reach their true potential, improving their profitability and performance whilst also applying their resources and knowledge to become a force for good.
We now have 17 offices across the world. Throughout our journey, we have met and employed some amazingly talented people, many of whom have stayed with us for well over 30 years. I’d like to publicly recognise all of our team, both past and present, for all they have done for Impact and our clients. Thank you. Our mission hasn’t changed but our capabilities, scope and methodologies continue to evolve and grow.
This is certainly not the 40th anniversary I had envisaged for us and our clients. No parties, no hugs, no wild celebrations! But the world we now live in stands to gain even more from a practice that has evolved through years of hard work and learning at Impact. This is a time when authenticity, agility and concern for others can help organisations and society to thrive again. This is a time when Impact has perhaps more to offer than ever before.
Our first 40 years really have been an amazing experience and we are looking to the future with confidence and excitement. If you have been involved in our journey so far, please make yourself known. We love to hear from past clients, participants and colleagues.
To celebrate 40 years in business, we've decided to capture the lessons we have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy finding out about them. Thanks for reading this and please get in touch if you are interested in finding out more.
David Williams, Impact's Founder and CEO.