at Work:

A Personal
and Public
Invitation to
Open Space

Michael Herman

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Many Gifts, One Story

Two years ago it all finally made sense. My working life and a good bit more from early on all seemed to 'click' into place in one grand story of what is happening now in us and our organizations. I filled dozens of flipchart pages with notes and pictures and lists and finally a 'table of contents' as it became clear that this story was big enough to be a 'book.'

For three days I walked around glowing, "I'm smart enough to write a book," I thought to myself. As Steve Martin says in the movie The Jerk, "I'm somebody now!" And then it hit me: I don't want to write a book! Books are smarter, more finished, more published and public than I really cared to be. I ran away, tried to play the whole thing off as a simple invitation and one-day conference. Three months later forty of us had a fantastic one-day conference in Open Space on a theme of 'Intentional Evolution at Work.' Still, it wouldn't let me go and what you hold now in your hands (or on your screen) is my latest compromise, my latest effort to appease the story gods.

And I'm not sure at all that it is a book. Not smart enough, not finished enough, not really published enough to meet my own standards for 'book.' It is, however, an open, honest, public offering of where I have been and how I am currently making sense of organization and open space. I've been calling it a 'workbook' and hoping that it will leave me be, to live and practice in peace, now that it's written down. I am hoping that we can all get quietly to work opening and holding space for each other, beyond so much explanation.

A workbook, toolbox, resource collection... call it what you will, but know right now that it's likely to raise more questions than it answers. It has been written in pieces, as I've had the time, energy, insight and inspiration. It is gift before product or conquest -- and flows directly from the great gifts I've received from teachers and colleagues and the people who have called me out of the blue to invite a conversation about this or that.

Steve Proudman, Harrison Owen, Sheila Isakson, Joan Murray, Linda Stevenson, Roger Breisch, Tom Mastandrea, Patricia Deer, Brian Bainbridge, Brian Reilly, Al Gustafson, Debbie Drake, Uwe Weissflog, John Fontana, Birgitt Bolton, Ralph Copleman, Barry Owen, Gretchen Neve, Amy Van Meter, Carol Peterson, Pam Winkler, Sheila McAnanly, Audrey Denecke, Bruce Mabee, Pam Elish, Karen Williams, Maggie Shreve, Anne Stadler, Ric Giardina, Dick Asimus, Peggy Holman, Joelle Everett, Michelle Field, Koos de Heer, Leslie D'Agostino, Patrick Brown, Dan O'Connor, Ian Hall, Peter Gordon, Kay Vogt, Lynn Pavlis-Jenkins, Sue Stratton, Lynn Breckenridge, Debbie Davis, Dimitri Topitzes, Ruthann Prange, Merrelyn Emery, Jan Tramposch, Tim Hamilton, Lisa Kimball, Maureen McCarthy, Bob Nelson and Julie Henderson have given primary insight and inspiration -- and witnessed these stories into reality. The writing of Ken Wilber and Angeles Arrien and the others quoted here have added essential shape. Bram Breure and Katie Brick showed up near the ending and made sure that it really did end, at least for now, though both threaten to make it a new beginning. Then, there are and always have been, my parents and family, who have taught me to work and learn, to care and create. And finally, there is Gayle, who holds me in the most wondrous and terrifying, space where this story was cooked over and over in the last ten years.

Beyond these, there are the many, many others -- way too many to name -- who have supported me in a worldwide community of learning, beginning online at MetaNet in the Open Space Conference, at a handful of Open Space on Open Space and Organization Transformation conferences, at the Intentional Evolution conference I hosted three years ago and others that have followed, and online in the Open Space Practitioners' worldwide listserve community and the Zapchen online journal. Indeed, I have journeyed for years, in a space held sacred by friends seen and unseen, known and unknown. I write and collect and offer all of what is here in honor of what they have known and done and invited and shared with me.

I've come to see the pieces gathered here as so many particles -- particular moments, if you will -- AND see them beginning to flow together as the story of one clear and surfable wave. I hope you'll appreciate the particles AND the wave. Moreover, I hope you'll find particles here that you can share with others, pieces that serve your many purposes, AND that you will do it in the comfort, confidence and ease that come from knowing that we are tapping into and surfing the crest of a great, rising wave.

When opening an event in open space, we acknowledge at the start that "when it's over, it's over." The flipside of this, of course, is that when it's not over, it's not over -- and we never really do know, when we get into something, how long it's going to take to deal with it. Likewise, only time will tell if this 'workbook' has appeased the forces that came calling me two years ago. For now, I offer it to you with the acknowledgment that it's not quick, not easy, not anything I planned, and also not something I could avoid or deny any longer.

Please join me...

Michael Herman
Summer, 2000

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Evolution at Work: A Personal Journey and Public Invitation to Open Space, by Michael Herman (www.michaelherman.com)
© Copyright 1998-2000 Michael Herman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reprint or distribute without permission and full attribution, including web address and copyright notice. Permission will be granted gladly if you'll just say what you'd like to copy and where you'd like to share it. [email protected]