at Work:

A Personal
and Public
Invitation to
Open Space

Michael Herman

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 Opening Invitation as Organization

The best part of Harrison Owen's first Organization Transformation symposium was the coffee breaks. So the next time around, he intentionally invited his participants to nothing more than one big coffee break -- and Open Space Technology was born. Intentional evolution, too, is all about seeing what's best in what we're already doing and working toward, naming it in a simple invitation, and opening the space for our colleagues, customers, suppliers, neighbors and friends, to work together, to create more and more of it.

This story is how I've come to understand and pursue what's best in organization: passion, vision, movement, effectiveness. This is the best I can do for now and I'm happy with how it's taken shape. At the same time, however, I know that this story -- and every other invitation, plan and map -- is flat.

In every moment here, I choose but one word, where in fact, it would take many to tell the whole truth. I've tried to not write this story for more than a year, but I find that it won't go away, won't leave me in peace. Even so, every time I sit to write, I come face-to-face with the unfathomable odds against my getting it right -- getting it squeezed into the words that will allow you to understand what I'm understanding, in a way that you can use it in your life.

Fact is, there are plenty of days when I can't even explain it to myself in the words I need, to know just what to do, at just the moment that I need to do it. Sometimes it happens anyway. I'd like to think it's a result of all the 'practicing' I do, in my mind, in those moments right after I should or could have done something very right. Perhaps the catch is that the moment of doing doesn't really need to be separate from the moment of seeing? But to not pull them apart is an awesome challenge, and who knows what might happen if my trust, my patience, my wisdom and compassion actually succeeded in leaving them together!

So, this is a story that I could not not write -- a call I could not refuse -- and yet, one that I know is seeking a level of clarity and certainty that this written world just doesn't allow us humans; seeking a power that can only come when I sit with you and really listen to your story -- as you help me know it and then I tell you mine -- the two of us working together to find the words that lead us to us.

And when it really works, writing this story of ours feels like a slow version of stepping up onto the top of a mountain, breathing the light of a sunrise, or inviting the smile of a little kid -- and saying "wow!" to nobody but myself -- before I can even really think it. It's a time of not doing anything and unavoidably doing something. It's about being powerfully connected to the whole and hopelessly alone in the details of my own understanding of it all; being driven to write even as I see what we really need is conversation you and me, us and them, more and more... about the things we care about most, are afraid we won't get or can't have, and yet must pursue.

And all shall be well, as we post invitations and host conversations, marrying the personal and the strategic. It really does work! NOT because of our planning and efforting -- but because the world really is waiting for us, really is calling for us, to invite it into these conversations. The world is ever ready to create more of what works, more of what is best for all of us.

And when we answer this call for simplicity, (costing not less than everything), we become inviting leaders inviting leadership. Evolution is now and open space. And the invitation and the organization are one. Please join us...

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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]