I was standing on a bus yesterday riding along a winding road in West Vancouver that hugs the sea shore for several miles. It can be a stomach turning ride if I am reading, and even just standing on the bus sometimes causes feelings of nausea.

To take my mind off my stomach I started thinking about what this situation could be a metaphor for. It became clear that it was obviously a metaphor for dealing with change.

We have a road, a bus and a body. The road is fairly immutable. It rises and falls and twists and turns. There are many ways to travel the road – by foot, by car, by bike and by bus. I chose the bus because it was going to get me to my destination cheaper than my car and faster than walking. And my bike is being repaired.

Having invested myself in the bus, my challenge was to deal with the twists and turns of the road in a way that was manageable. And trust me, there were times yesterday when it did not seem manageable. I tried a number of ways to deal with the twisting and jostling. The one that seemed to work the best was spreading my weight between both my hands and both my legs. In essence I was aligning myself with the momentum of the bus.

The issue of course is that the bus has lots of momentum and so does my body. Riding within the bus, my momentum wants to carry my body out of the bus and off the road. Only by making myself lighter, seeming to have less momentum could I manage to ride the twists and turns of that road. Failing to do so would have resulted in a catastrophic failure of my management system and a mess for the bus driver to clean up.

Managing change is just like this. There is the illusion that we can manage change at some deep level. But of course we cannot control the road. It twists and turns and rises and falls. And to some extent we cannot even control the bus. The things we embed ourselves within, whether they are organization or communities will journey along the road at a speed and pace that we can scarcely influence. We could become the driver, or we can choose to get off, but within those extremes, most of us just have to cope.

What we can do is find ways to steady ourselves, and become lighter so that the twists and turns of the road and the crazy pace of the bus driver don’t throw us for a loop. To be really successful we have to, as individuals, find ways to suppress the urge our momentum has for throwing us into the ditch. That what change management is all about – a personal capacity to deal with change.

Now this seems to elementary and practical and known that it hardly seems writing about. And yet, I find interesting things happen in Open Space.

Open Space Technology lightens up everything. It removes all the things we use to anchor ourselves to our organizations. It strips us clean of our salary driven motivations to work because it invites us to contribute only about issues we care about. It takes away all of our plans and stories about the kind of place we are and the kind of people we work with and invites a new vision of what the organization could be. It undoes all of the heavy structure and invites light, almost gossamer-like networks to evolve and dissolve according to the work that needs to be done. And it transcends our everyday organizational output, and takes us to a new level of creating contributions and connections between people and ideas.

Open Space takes everything and makes it lighter. And that pushes buttons for people. Noticing which buttons are being pushed is a hugely valuable experience for people because those buttons signify exactly the areas that each person needs to work on to develop capacity to manage themselves in the changing world of work and life.

Hi Chris. I'm still trying to get used to this wiki stuff. Is it okay to comment here? If I do something wrong, please tell me so I don't keep making the same blunders over and over.

Your story caught me twice. The first was the image of you and the bus bumping along. Your story brought to mind a mediation teacher who often demonstrates a small piece of Aikido he's picked up along the way. He begins by standing normally and asks a student to push him on the shoulder, and we all watch him nearly fall over. Then he does it again, and again. Same result. Then he takes a deep breath and focuses on holding his energy loose and easy in the center of his body, just under his abdomen, I suppose. He centers. Then he asks the student to push him on the shoulder, and we all watch him sway, but he remains solidly and comfortably on his feet. He doesn't fall over. He does this again, and again. Same result. You said we need to steady ourselves and get lighter. My sense of my teacher is that he gets heavier in his center as he centers himself, and more fluid and flowing everywhere else. So now I wonder: do you think you were centered? Would you mind giving it a try the next time you're on the bus, and letting me know if it makes any difference? And if so, what does that teach us about managing, and about change?

The other image that caught me was this thing about getting lighter. This is exactly the way I describe the journey of my work. First lawyer, then mediator, then my work with schools/ kids/play/OST..... getting lighter and happier all the time. My husband asked me last night why I'm not mediating anymore. I told him I'm just too happy, and too light. Can't find my way back to that heavier, more somber space. Up up and away...... JulieSmith

It seems to me that in addition to pushing buttons and illuminating the places in which a person needs to work, Open Space offers people the opportunity to take the next step and take action in managing themselves in the changing world of work and life. I observe the awareness of need-for-action as a scary, vulnerable, unfamiliar place for many (including myself). “What do I do now?” Open Space provides a forum or setting conducive to/encouraging of action. Having a button pushed, a reality shift enticed, in an environment that facilitates (perhaps stimulates) movement is an invaluable resource.

I have another story to share along these lines…having a button pushed, recognizing the effort needed for movement, and taking action.

On the airplane…an extremely rocky plane ride. I bring with the choppiness around me, the choppiness within myself. I disrupt the flow to let in the jagged fear. It grips me and I cling to the armrests hoping that “it” goes away—quickly, painlessly. I stop. I close my eyes. I acknowledge myself, my form, space. I breathe and repeat, “relax and make it disappear.” I’m on an amusement park ride that continuously (yet haphazardly) bobs up and down. I’m floating in the air, thousands of feet above an immense body of water and continuously I bob up and down. I am no longer telling myself to relax—the words are quite a burden. I am breathing. My breath is exciting. I am noticing the activity behind my eyelids. I am breathing. I am feeling my breath slip in my nose, I take it back a little further to the extremities of my lungs, I feel it travel the journey through my mouth back into this air plane. I am breathing. My fear has traveled on—would a smooth ride give me reason for concern at this moment? Relax and erase it from your thoughts. Relax and make it disappear.


Hi friends, I am thrilled to have found this conference, and am so grateful for the people who set this up. I use Mindell's worldwork in my facilitation, but was lucky to have been a couple of time in groups and organization that used open space technology and of course have read some of Owen's books, but it is wonderful to meet a group of practitioners and feel and see and smell the work and the personalities involved with it. Smell the work online? That's how it feels like over here, when I was reading the deep, thoughtful, fun and interesting contributions. I was about to go out for my morning run on the hill next to our house, where a solitary net of trails cover some 30-40 miles, when I ran into this link instead, through an email. An before I knew it, I found myself sitting in a cybercafe that is everywhere and also in Denmark. Now I am off to my run. As a born Swiss, I am still in awe of the vastness of Oregon, the untouched beauty of nature. Yesterday, my run brought me right next to a herd of some 40 elks, with their kids tagging along, who wandered through the opening in the forest. It was touching to see fellow beings on their journey, not knowing where their fate will take them, and sharing this moment when we looked at each other, before they took off. I was touched by what I perceived an openness to whatever situation, and acceptance of life as an unpredictable path, they were my teachers for the day.