Making open space work LO13214

Thomas Benjamin (
Mon, 14 Apr 1997 12:55:45 +0500 EST

Replying to LO13192,

Doug Reeler requests" I would like to open a discussion to explore why
it(open space) works -and therefore what principles can be learnt and
applied elsewhere - and how it can be improved"

I have today a copy of "At Work - Stories of Tomorrow's Workplace" edited
by Anne Stadler Vol6(2) March/April special issue on Open Space. It was
Anne Stadler who introduced this technique for the first time. I have
since then read Harrison Owen's book on the topic. I have organised two
significant meetings using this technique and participated in two on

It has worked for me. In response to the above request, my observations:

- The first time I participated, I had announced a topic expecting people
to sign in. The topic was sensitive within the theme. No one signed in.
At the market place, I saw several people canvassing for people to sign in
for topics. I did not canvass. I thought whoever comes is the right
people. At the appointed hour, I spent my time alone, nursing my ego. I
had listed many reasons why OST cannot work under such conditions. It was
much later that I realised that I did not do what I could and should have
done for the theme, "to spend time alone on the topic and make my
contribution to the theme which could be posted on the news bulletin

- The quality of discussions depend to a large extent the nature of
facilitation in the meeting. If the lead discussant elicits participation
the quality of the output and individual experiences is high. On the
other hand if the lead discussant has listed a topic for others to hear
the persons views, the quality suffers. In the latter situation,
hierarchy and ego is the key. I signed in for a good topic. I walked
out(law of two feet) after 10 miniutes. A few stuck on because the
speaker was high up in the organisational ladder. I am not sure if I have
been forgiven yet. The culture constrained individuals excersising the

- When I organised an OST, I have seen many experiment with the principles
and the law.

To maximise the potential of the OST, I realised, I needed to become
comfortable with the concept of free market. I and many of us assume we
are proponents of free and open market. The OST teaches what it means.
Once, one overcomes the initial experiences and focuses on what the OST
can offer, the technique works. Assuming other organisational aspects are
attended to. I don't think, the OST will work for monopolists and
individuals who have high need for control. An inference based on my
limited experience.

Thomas P Benjamin


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