at Work:

A Personal
and Public
Invitation to
Open Space

Michael Herman

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The Art and Practice of Opening Space


The next nine pages, most of the rest of this section, are my own collection of the guides, tools, and handouts I use to introduce, plan and conduct open space events in organization.

Either of the preceding articles is appropriate as a handout to groups considering the use of Open Space Technology, but the following list of story seeds is usually where I start the conversation about Open Space as a method.

  • the energy of a good coffee break
  • finding what works and growing more of it
  • passion bounded by responsibility
  • productivity guaranteed
  • simple, transparent, replicable, scalable
  • how inviting is your organization?
  • the four principles are about spirit
  • the one law is about learning
  • cyberspace is open space
  • blowing bubbles at work
  • appropriate structure, genuine community
  • the evolution of organization
  • can catholics do this?

Each bullet point refers to a different story or set of stories about how Open Space works. Most of these stories are told somewhere in this volume and most of the bullet points could be replaced with your own favorite stories from Open Space.

The first story is the story of where Open Space Tech came from, as told earlier in Harrison's article. The second story is of my own introduction to Open Space, as told in the Introduction of this volume. And, yes, the last bullet point "Can Catholics do this?" is a question that was actually asked in the planning of my first Open Space event.

In fact, this question comes up in lots of settings, about lots of different 'kinds' of people. It sounds like: "Yeah, okay, now I/we (the leader/planners) really do get it, but can our engineers, sales people, kids, nurses, drivers, staff, participants, etc. do this?" And the answer is always, YES! Open Space runs on some really basic human mechanisms: circle, bulletin board, marketplace, and the ups and downs, ins and outs, back and forth or breathing and conversation.

Next, you'll find several pages that lead from initial consideration of Open Space, through event planning and site set-up, and into the opening moments with a sample opening script. When it comes right down to it, there are only four main issues to attend to in the planning of an Open Space event: invitation, guest list, logistics and follow-up. In practice, however, it can get a little more interesting than this, so the following pages offer some additional detail on preparation.

These pages also contain a number of references to real case stories available on the internet. Even more references are offered in the Appendix, as well. Open Space Tech has now been used with so many different kinds of organizations that a fitting story can be found for almost any situation and a complete sampling just doesn't fit in a book anymore! If all else fails, and you can't find the story you need online, you can always subscribe to the worldwide listserve to post your questions/needs to some of the most active and experiences practitioners on the planet.

Finally, this section closes with some guiding images, for facilitator preparation and organizational follow-through.

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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]