Open Space Technology (OST) is a meeting methodology, developed by Harrison Owen, that creates an environment for innovation and creative problem solving that comes from the passion of the people within the organization or the group. It energizes the work place or community with energy of involvement and commitment. Open Space Technology
accesses the wisdom of the people within the organization or involved with the organization to guide it. OST can be used to bring everyone into the process of strategic planning or to solve a particular problem that the organization is facing or identify opportunities for the future.
We love facilitating Open Space Technology. Donna facilitates the process, mentoring the organization, but the people within the organization and the administration develop the strategic plan or direction.
Prior to an Open Space Technology meeting Donna meets with the key people to identify the questions or issues that are at the forefront. In this initial meeting some organizational frameworks are used to assist the group in determining what the focus of the Open Space Technology meeting will be, its length, and who will be invited. OST is not recommended when the formal leadership of an organization or group needs to control the outcome of the meeting. The “Givens” or non-negotiables are established prior to the meeting.
Open Space Technology meetings are typically one half day to 2 1/2 days, with the longer meeting resulting in more energizing of the organization and its staff, and clearer plans of action and direction.
The Open Space Technology process results in a report at the end of the meeting that each person attending receives. The reports outlines plans of action and next steps towards agreed upon goals.
In two and a half days an organization can plan real progress or change, with clear action plans and action steps. Key staff can commit at that meeting to move the plan forward and the group can leave with clarity of what will happen over the next few days and weeks, based on their collaborative work together. OST can result in real progress, progress that can take committees months or even years to achieve.
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- Taps into the wisdom and energy within the organization
- Involves all members of the organization in the process
- Increases organizational health, thus facilitating a healthier workplace
- Results in a written report with usable data at the end of the meeting that all participants receive.
Principles of Open Space Technology:
Four Principles There are four principles in open space technology
- Whoever comes is the right people
So, what happens if no one comes to your group? You could sit there & feel hurt and angry. Or you might look at it this way: First, it is just possible that it wasn’t a very good idea to begin with. Then again, it may be a great idea but at the wrong time. In either case, you are getting some useful information. There is, however, another possibility. It is a GREAT idea, at just the right time, and you are the only person competent to deal with it.
There is nothing in the “rule” book that says that a group is composed of more than one. And by the way, when was the last time you had a large piece of time free to work on a major idea for which you had passion?
- Whenever it starts is the right time
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
- When it’s over, it’s over & when its not over, its not over
If the group gets there and the work is done in 20 minutes this principle is saying its fine, when its over it’s over. At the same time, if the times for groups come and go and its not over, its not over.
Law of Mobility
A critical lesson for humans at this time is to be aware of and manage personal energy. The law of mobility or the law of two feet is an invitation to pay attention to the use of personal energy and use it productively, in life nurturing ways rather than life depleting ways.
You are responsible for you. What you contribute and what you learn is up to you. Your energy and wisdom are too precious to be wasted by staying in situations where you are neither contributing nor learning. You are too valuable a human being.
Some people are bumblebees and some people might choose to be butterflies.
Bumblebees are those people who take the freedom of the law seriously and use their two feet, constantly flitting from meeting to meeting. Their contribution is that of pollination and cross-pollination, lending richness and variety to the discussions.
Butterflies are a different sort. These people often never get into any meeting. They might be at the coffee pot or the patio. At first glance it is difficult to see what, if anything , they contribute and indeed, one might wonder why they even bothered to come. The truth is butterflies do very little, and in that lies their contribution. They create centers of non-action, where silence may be enjoyed or some new, unexplored topic of conversation engaged. If you watch a butterfly over time, you will notice that every so often somebody will stop by. Maybe a conversation will occur, maybe not, but if it does, it almost inevitably ends up being significant. We’re not sure why this is so, but perhaps significance emerges because nobody is looking for it.
OST is integrated into our work in small groups and how Compass Rose Consulting operates.
Isabella Circles utilizes the principles of Open Space Technology and works with members in a circle, sometimes that circle is virtual but it remains a powerful part of how we work.
Ways to Use Open Space Technology
- When there is a challenge that the organization is facing that needs creativity, input and solutions
- Strategic planning — OST can be a highly inclusive and creative methodology for strategic planning
- Open Space can be used throughout the organization for ongoing creativity – becoming an Open Space Organization — how the organization operates.