in open space calls forth some metaphorical musing in a letter
to a client...)
dear (client, friend, executive director,
open space challenge),
today i am thinking about blowing bubbles
and opening space...not 'doing open space' but actually opening
space for people and organizations to catch their breath and
be ready for what's coming next...
when it starts, the soap seems totally incapable
of becoming anything more distinguished than a puddle...but we
introduce a circle, add breath and give it direction...and then
must let it go where it will. there is no such thing as bubble
editing. and even though the opener concentrates on the soap
in the center of the circle, the reality is that the center soap
is not different from the rest of the soap. it just happens to
be in the center, at this moment. as far as the bubble is concerned,
the soap in the center has no more, and no less, responsibility
for leading and holding the bubble together than does the rest
of the soap.
to cling to a bubble is to pop it. we know
this. to take responsibility for it's path is a waste of time.
at best, there is only some brief chance to remove obstacles,
but to expect it to follow the path we clear is nonsense. and
so it is with open space in organizations...it can't be designed
or boxed, used as a tool or managed as a path. there is only
the breath of spirit and the direction given by the openers.
after that, all we can do is stand back and watch the flight,
knowing that bubbles, circles and meetings...all of us and all
the rest... come and go -- but add to the story.
and the story is the spirit of soap, in which
we dip and from which all bubbles come. so keep your eye on the
bottle, pay attention to the soap, and keep working to understand
the largest story. the attached (bottle of bubbles) can be used
for testing and practice.
best for now,
conversation with colleagues in open space...)
A few months later, I raised this bubble-blowing
metaphor at a conference on Organization Learning, held in Open
Space in Washington DC. The participants came from all over corporate
America. Here is a taste of what we did with my questions about
ISSUE #10: structure,
impermanence and blowing bubbles in organization
bob van hook, patti kaufman, pam burke, rob creekmore, paul gergen,
judy cannon, william ashton, maddie hunter, roger breisch, martha
temple, jack hirschfeld, carol gorelick, ruthann prange, nancy
barger, denise matirri, peter gordon
how is your work like blowing bubbles with soap???
-mechanisms take some orientation, then easy to make lots of
-streams of work
-spinning in circles, getting dizzy, but producing a lot
-the beauty of the chaos of it all
-symbols of play
-play AND work...others have used juggling, non-dominant-side
movement to loosen up
CONCLUSION: should benchmark kids in school to understand how
work and play really should go together
what happens when we try to blow single large bubbles, put more
of ourselves into each piece of work???
-takes balance of internal and external focus
-big bubbles capture group's attention, like big, meaningful,
pieces of work
-initial assumption: bubbles don't last, aren't replicating...
"i have to keep making more"
-realization: one person's large bubbles (big successes) caused
others to try, raised standards, cause other bubbles to appear
elsewhere in the circle
CONCLUSION: need to focus on learning, emerging process, not
just finished, physical products
CONCLUSION: the kind and quality of the conversation DOES MATTER
so what about people cutting lettuce, entering data, doing other
work that just doesn't qualify as "play"????
-why do we work? -- possibility of creating something new
-we teach people to do technical task, don't teach how to create
meaningfulness in work
CONCLUSION (after more than we could capture here): big challenge
for leadership is to help more people see (and make) choices,
for changing work or changing the way we do it
are we now in a new renaissance age, making the leap from the
printing press (moveable type) to computers? if so, what does
the new renaissance organization look like?
-space to reflect
-more time in silence together
-time for learning
-many diverse people at table
-relax mentally and physically
THE EDGE WE WENT AWAY TO PONDER...
does information flow/technology make conscious evolution possible???
would we/could we edit our organizations' DNA???
becomes open space invitation
-- or was it invitation all along?????)
The question is often asked about open
space technology and other meeting processes: How does it get
to action? Well, the honest answer is that no process can guarantee
action. We didn't plan action in the session documented on the
previous pages, but a few months later I sent out the following
invitation and several of the original participants responded.
When the time was right, the conversation and action did go on.
My own lesson? Evolution is hard to do by yourself, and almost
impossible to stop.
MHA Home | MHA Conferences | Global Chicago
Calendar | [email protected]
You are invited to join us for a Working
Intentional Evolution in Organization:
Toward More of What Works at Work
September 18, 1998 -- 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Hotel, Oak Park, IL (one block from Chicago trains)
Cost: $35 to
$95, according to your ability to pay and expected benefit --
as determined by YOU. Includes meeting costs, lunch and breaks,
and a copy of the proceedings report.
Michael Herman, Leslie D'Agostino, Kathy Schroeder, Julie Benesh,
Steve Proudman, Sheila Isakson, Kay Vogt, Gretchen Neve, Ann
Darda, Linda Easley, Joanna Slaybaugh, Debbie Drake, Gary Cuneen...
at every level, of all kinds of organizations, to work on challenges
we all share, toward solutions we all need...
Purpose Program Registration Practicalities
What you can see, is what you can get...
What if you could edit the DNA of your organization?
Would you do it or does that sound too radical? What if you could
alter your organization's genetic code, to have more of what
works and fewer problems? Isn't that what you're already trying
to do? As we learn to see the subtler realities of organizational
life, we are fast approaching an age of intentional evolution
in our organizations.
All around us, the world as we've known it
is dissolving -- jobs into projects, communication into computers,
corporate offices into homes and copy centers, and even national
sovereignty into international corporate strategy. Once a rather
abstract theory, the process of evolution has become our personal
and professional life experience. In many cases, the lifecycles
of jobs, products, strategies, and even whole organizations have
been crashed from decades to months. In the chaos of these times,
it's easy to see things coming apart.
The challenge for leaders everywhere is
to see that things are also coming together in powerful new ways
-- and to act in ways that help (rather than hinder) the emergence
of new possibilities.
Insightful leadership is about seeing the
possibilities for wholeness in conflict, order in complexity,
learning in crisis, and power in diversity. Inspired performance
is what happens when people see these possibilities becoming
realities in their work. To evolve more intentionally is to create
conditions for higher and higher levels of insight and performance,
everywhere in the organization.
What are the issues and opportunities for
evolving our organizations more intentionally -- to create more
of what works at work? This is what we want to find out!
Our quality of life, as individuals and organizations,
depends on shared stories of what has succeeded and failed in
the past, practical stories of what's working now (and why),
and clearer stories of the role that everyone will play in what
comes next. Please join us as we renew our energy, work on our
stories, and build our capacity for a new kind of work and immediate
Show up, bring friends, add spirit...
If you know other people who would want to
be invited to this gathering, please pass this invitation (address)
along. Consider this an opportunity to let friends and colleagues
know something more about your passion and responsibility for
your work and your organization(s).
If you absolutely can't make this date, we'd
still appreciate your spreading the word, sending your good wishes,
and letting us know how we can include you in whatever futures
might flow from this gathering...but we really hope you will
join us in September!
This gathering is an opportunity to...
1. Explore a simple framework designed to
help people everywhere in our organizations begin to see and
act as their own local organization development experts.
2. Learn about what's working in our organizations -- why it's
working, how it can work in other places, and how we can follow
it up with something that works even more...
3. Connect with insightful people, from all kinds of organizations,
to grow working relationships and conversations that can support
our personal and organizational evolution.
4. Experience Open Space Technology, a simple, powerful approach
to work, that has enabled people in all kinds of organizations,
on all seven continents (really), to make rapid progress on their
most challenging strategic and tactical issues, in highly productive
meetings of as few as 5 and as many as 1200 active participants.
5. Create new knowledge, new ideas, new capabilities, and new
energy for action, for every person present and every organization
The format will work as follows...
1. An opening presentation connecting the
possibilities for intentional evolution to the realities of our
everyday experience in organizations.
2. An introduction to the Open Space Technology process and principles
3. An almost-all-day open space, for identifying and addressing
the issues and opportunities that are most important to our organizations,
and us in them!
4. A conversation about how we might sustain and build on the
energy, insight and activity that will surely emerge during the
course of this day.
Advance registration is required for this
program. If you want to come at the last minute, we're glad to
take a payment at the door, as long as we still have room for
you -- so please call or email first.
The cost for the program is $35 to $95, on
a sliding scale according to your ability to pay and expected
benefit -- as determined by YOU. Your payment will cover meeting
costs, lunch and breaks, and a copy of the proceedings report.
To register, send a check made payable to:
Michael Herman Associates
300 West North Avenue #1105
Chicago, IL 60610
Be sure to include all of your contact information
(address, phones, emails, etc.) with your check. And, if you
need an invoice or receipt, just let us know.
(Lodging, parking and other important, but
not very interesting, details omitted here.)