Issue: How to make a board understand what it’s all about

Convenor: Annette

Participants: Agnete, Julie, Jasmina, Eddie, Michael M, Marianne, Antti-Juhani


During a wide-ranging discussion we reached several practical conclusions on convincing boards and management teams to take on board OS, or to continue to see the benefit of it beyond one or two conferences. We also ranged over issues of power, hierarchies, systems and marketing OS.

Practical ideas; Show the US West video Try to get a steering group Find out what they want – purpose and goals Deal with practical matters Involve the board right through the process from the beginning, and try to have them attend the open space if at all possible At the beginning meet senior people socially or outside their work context – this may make it easier for them to talk with you over the real issues Understand the board and their anxiety and embrace that – realise that they may be learning and moving at a different rate from the rest of the organisation Try if nothing else to get the board to meet in a different way – in a circle, in a different room, writing down everyone’s issues to be addressed.

Other discussions; The charity / NGO sector is often more adventurous or more accepting of new things and is easier to talk to than other sectors. Is OS about handing over power? It was proposed that hierarchy and pwer aren’t changed as a result of OS – relationships and interactions change which can be perceived as a loss of power. In theory there should be a broadening of the power base when more people take responsiblity but this can be a challenge or frightening to those who haven't done that before. If we define power in a hierarchical sense then it is suspended temporarily during the OS. It was also proposed that hierarchies are a fact of the world and of nature, and that there are 2 types of hierarchy; one that is adapted to fit the task at hand and is flexible enough to fit in the future; or one that is historical and static and so is hindering what we want to do. In this sense hierarchy is a way of organising or a structure or a network. OS can be seen as opening the window onto the true nature of an organisaiton. As facilitators we need to fully accept and live the principles and the law, then take this approach with others. OS is about honest conversations.

Another question arose about how to attract the right clients - those who will 'get' OS. We were told that you can't sell OS but you can market it, using a website, or the ripple effect to attract new clients. The Future Search Network uses the ripple effect more strategically, eg, with IKEA.

Ultimately we concluded that we should always remember that the whole system should be in the room - open up and include the board, customers, etc. As a facilitator / host you should just do your job and involve everybody from the beginning. Believe it will work but remember there's not always an easy way.