Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Open Space Technology

What is an Open Space Technology meeting?

Open Space Technology has been defined as:

* a simple, powerful way to catalyze effective working conversations and truly inviting organizations -- to thrive in times of swirling change.
* a methodological tool that enables self-organizing groups of all sizes to deal with hugely complex issues in a very short period of time.
* a powerful group process that supports positive transformation in organizations, increases productivity, inspires creative solutions, improves communication and enhances collaboration.
* the most effective process for organizations and communities to identify critical issues, voice to their passions and concerns, learn from each other, and, when appropriate, take collective responsibility for finding solutions.

The goal of an Open Space Technology meeting is to create time and space for people to engage deeply and creatively around issues of concern to them. The agenda is set by people with the power and desire to see it through, and typically, Open Space meetings result in transformative experiences for the individuals and groups involved.

What is Open Space Technology best used for?

Open Space Technology is useful in almost any context including strategic direction setting, envisioning the future, conflict resolution, morale building, consultation with stakeholders, community planning, collaboration and deep learning about issues and perspectives.

When is Open Space Technology the best meeting format to use?

Any situation in which there is:

* A real issue of concern
* Diversity of players
* Complexity of elements
* Presence of passion (including conflict)
* A need for a quick decision

Open Space will work under all of these circumstances. It is only inappropriate when the outcome of the meeting is predetermined or if sponsors are not prepared to change as a result of the meeting.

What outcomes can I expect from an Open Space Technology Meeting?

Open Space Technology meetings can produce the following deliverables:

* Every single issue that anybody cares about enough to raise will be "on the table".
* All issues will receive as much discussion as people care to give them.
* All discussion will be captured in a book, and made available to the participants.
* All issues will be prioritized.
* Related issues will be converged.
* Responsibility will be taken for next step actions.

In meetings of one and a half or two and a half days duration, all of these deliverables will be achieved with deep conversation and commitment to action. Meetings of a shorter duration will have many of these positive effects, but typically in meetings of a day or less, there is more emphasis on conversation and less on action.

How does an Open Space Technology meeting work?

Open Space operates under four principles and one law. The four principles are:

* Whoever comes are the right people
* Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
* When it starts is the right time
* When it's over it's over

The Law is known as the Law of Two Feet:

"If you find yourself in a situation where you are not contributing or learning, move somewhere where you can."

The four principles and the law work to create a powerful event motivated by the passion and bounded by the responsibility of the participants.

From Chris Corrigan, Consulting in Organizational and Community Development, web site.

Oliver Markley brought Open Space to my attention. I have to read and study it before I can apply it to an Innovation Commons, but this web site summarized the process so well that I wanted to pass it along quickly.

There is also a Wiki.

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