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Open Space: Exploring Spirit and Wisdom at Work

What people have said about Open Space . . .

“Astounding!” ~ New York Times

“An intense learning experience.” ~ Business India

“A smashing success, according to even the most ardent skeptics.” ~ Tom Peters, In Pursuit of WOW

“Open Space is a very powerful methodology to engage people in. People take ownership. They come up with solutions. It brings out the dormant possibilities in people.” ~ Helen Vazquez, World Bank

“One thing you discover with Open Space is your people know what changes they need to make. All you have to do after they’ve made their recommendations is say, ‘Go.'” ~ Gary Gonsalves, Corporate Express

“I’ve used it dozens of times with monstrous effectiveness. Even the most cynical people have said, ‘Can we do it again?'” ~ S. Mirkellian, TMS Training International

“It was very valuable, creating community space in a special way.” ~ John Colvin, Sustainable Futures

What is Open Space?

  • A flexible, informal meeting management strategy that creates the fundamental conditions for open communication, collaboration and creativity.
  • An innovative conference methodology that stimulates widespread information sharing, self-directed learning and systems thinking.
  • A dynamic and self-organizing approach to human interaction that encourages the structure of a gathering to emerge naturally and easily from within the deeply held passions and interests of the participants.
  • A powerful approach to organizational transformation that releases the passion, wisdom, and commitment inherent within the system.
  • A spaciousness of spirit that invites the discovery, exploration and fulfillment of our highest human potential. How does Open Space work? No agenda is required, and only minimal preparation is needed. Stakeholders are simply invited to convene together based upon a shared interest in the theme of the Open Space event. The self-organizing structure of the gathering is based on the following guidelines.

The Principles of Open Space:

  • When it starts, it starts.
  • Whoever comes is the right people.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  • When it’s over, it’s over.

The Law of 2 Feet:
If at any time, in any meeting, you are neither learning nor contributing, you have a responsibility to yourself and to others to use your two feet to go somewhere where you can (learn and contribute).

The Wild Card: Be prepared to be surprised!
What actually happens in an Open Space event? The Open Space event begins with everyone gathered in an open circle. The facilitators briefly introduce the theme and guidelines of the Open Space process, and then invite the participants to identify their passions, needs and interests – all the issues and concerns they want to explore within the Open Space. Participants then choose those issues which, individually, are of most interest and importance, and these topics become the focal point for all the subsequent break-out sessions, dialogue and action planning.

When should we go into Open Space?
Whenever as individuals, as an organization or as a community we are faced with:

  • An uncertain future.
  • A complex problem that does not have an obvious solution.
  • A deadline of yesterday, i.e., an urgent need for rapid decision-making and organization-wide buy-in.
  • High levels of diversity with potential or actual conflict.
  • An opportunity that requires the skill, ability and commitment of everyone within the system.
  • The challenge of finding meaning and purpose in our experience.
  • A need for creative thinking, innovation and collaboration.
  • A desire for improved communication, shared learning and high play.

Consider the possibility….

“Leadership is no longer (and possibly never was) a matter of command and control exercised by The One or the Few over the many. Leadership is liberation, the capacity to inspire the human Spirit on its quest for fulfillment. It is not about answers, but rather questions. It is not the dictatorial domain of the single powerful leader, but rather the birthright of each and every human soul — only waiting to be realized.” Harrison Owen

“Suppose the Open Space experience is not the exception, but rather the rule. Not some fantasm, but the way things are. Under these circumstances, Open Space is not an aberration but rather a break-through of reality. The aberration lies with our concept of what organizational life should be like.”  ~ Harrison Owen

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