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Team Building in Australia, Sabre's role in its history

Team building as a truly specialist field has now existed within Australia for decades.


Whilst people in organisations have sought to build teams, team morale and team dynamics since time immemorial, the term ‘team building’ as a specialist field seems to have come into existence in the 1980’s.


Commercially available team building approaches in Australia were initially outdoor and adventure based, often imitating approaches from the United States and the UK.


Initially staff from outdoor recreation centres, youth and school camps served to adapt approaches from overseas designers such as Project Adventure.  The formats of high and low ropes and simple problem solving games were the norm.


Sabre’s initial approaches to commercial team building were born at the Gold Coast War Museum in the early to mid 80’s under the early creative initiative of a teenage Talan Miller (who went on to found Sabre).


He was employed part time at the Museum during his primary and high school holidays and weekends. In his mid to late teens he was entrusted to deliver demonstrations and military themed shows to tourist and business visitors involving fun storylines, costumes, bunkers, obstacles and fake booby traps etc.


After a few television and film projects (such as the Wickety Wak ‘Waks Works’ specials on Channel 7 and various TV Ads for clients such as Forest Glades) he incorporated some additional theatricality and flair into these events and activities. 


Having seen some ABC screenings of the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo and team challenges such as the “Running of The Guns”, some simple lightweight parodies of these tasks fused with problem solving games were also created.   The name ‘Corporate Strike Force’ was given to this approach.


With the arrival of Paintball / Skirmish into Australia these rudimentary team building approaches took on yet another dimension as he fused comical commando raids (scripted by him), with the early ‘Strike Force’ games and Paintball.


The media attention that Skirmish / Paintball was starting to attract also served as a great platform to promote adventure based team building to business and conference clients coming to the Gold Coast. 


Talan undertook University and also Army Officer training before deciding to put more effort into creating the first evolutions of Sabre in partnership with the War Museum.  These were known as Movie Militaria (providing military advising to film and TV) and Adventure Conventions (conference and business team building events). 


His Army Officer training infused a slightly more sophisticated approach to the team development side of things, as well as introducing some theoretical and practical robustness to the fun side of things. 


Adventure Conventions made use of Talan’s ideas for blending theatrical introductions and storylines with the physical challenges he had designed.  Early clients included Collins Foods, Kelwin Carpets, Sheraton, Woolworths and Nestle.


Adventure Conventions would eventually evolve into Sabre Corporate Development as a dedicated team building and leadership development provider. 


For most of the early 90’s Sabre depended heavily upon the military theme alone and adaptations of the initial activities and approaches.  It was only after the initial rounds of clients started seeking and asking for new themes and approaches that such demand drove further innovation. 


It was an early client from XXXX, a Mr John McSpedden, who said to Talan after he won the 1991 Channel 9 Young Achievers’s Award for his creation of the business “mate, you now need a another form of Adventure to add to Adventure Conventions to keep these clients coming back”. 


It was obvious that having just one theme would be limiting, and so many new themes and approaches started to be added to the portfolio.


The funny thing is, to this day many of the original activities and approaches devised in the early to mid 80’s are still used, and served to inspire the great foundations upon which many Sabre team building themes and approaches are based. 


So within an environment where team building was primarily associated with ropes courses, outdoor pursuits and simple spider web and log games, Adventure Conventions was a genuine innovator for themed indoor and outdoor corporate team building. 


The military theme provided the initial impetus and round of clients to fund the start of the business and to help it become established. 


As the years have gone by and Adventure Conventions has well and truly turned into Sabre, there are many more themes and approaches on offer but they all still owe their origin to those first simple approaches conceived way back in the 1980’s by a fertile teenage mind.


An old team building pic taken at the GCI with Sabre
Sabre historic image of MD on the set of Mission Impossible
One of Sabre's first team building events on the Gold Coast
Historic pic of Sabre running team building in Fiji
Sabre running a team building event with a Pirate theme
Historic image of Sabre facilitators in a Flintstones theme
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