Devoted and Disgruntled 5

Phelim McDermott reported recently…

It’s amazing but it is now five years since I first dived into Open Space after reading Harrison’s book. At that time I had never been to an open space event had no idea what it looked like but knew it in my bones.Since then we have done Devoted and Disgruntled 5 times and done one in Scotland, one Brazil, one in in NYC and one in Newcastle will be doing another one In Newcastle in the coming months. Been asked to set one up in LA etc.. its become a growing community of people who are devoted to theatre and want to use the fuel of their disgruntlement to change.

I remember that the thing that really inspired me to read the book in the first place was Harrison’s intro saying OS belonged to everyone and would never be certified/owned/contained etc we should all just do it. It reminded me of my own feelings about Impro and its relationship to the many attempts to categories, teach, quantify it. In the end Impro just was and would appear where it wanted. It also reminded me of Robert Le Page’s advice to “Mummenchance” theatre that they must “Give away the recipe.” He was referring specifically to the recipe for their squidgy changing putty like masks. But he meant this as a wider metaphor to look after our own creativity. We must gift the recipe not guard it.

In this spirit here’s our fifth annual report on the state of people who are passionate and responsible about theatre. The event is an annual 2.5 event on third day we reopen the space for whatever people want to still talk about and do.

So here’s the report and here’s a visual representation done from the report by wordle which i love. It’s a big theatre word sitting in a nexus of other issues! I think it gives a better feeling representation of the event than the report.

Pictures and Posters

Thanks to Doug Caldwell for the following pictures and posters…

Education Technology and Self-Organization

Steve Hargadon is intrigued by what’s happening in ed-tech:

One element to these meetings that intrigues me, and which I’m still trying to quantify, is the ability for an engaged and devoted group to succeed in producing from their own experiences material and learning which not only meet what a single expert might bring, but often exceed traditional expertise. Darren Draper and I have been struggling to find a easy phrase for this, what he calls “Hargadon’s Law,” but which surely has been expressed somewhere else by someone more eloquent. It’s the literal equivalent of 1 + 1 = 3, which does not invalidate the value of an expert, but which demonstrates or draws out the wisdom of a group, showing it to be significantly more powerful than typically manifest in more traditional teaching environments. Again, arguably not founded on the technologies of the Web, but enhanced and focused, perhaps, by using them.

He has a long list of ideas (at the end of his post) for enhancing or supporting self-organization. Some I’d call kindred to (some are actually already embedded in) an open space approach. Others, like bringing people in by video or audio conferencing, might just get in the way. Generally, though, he’s got a broad inventory of where various sorts of new meetings are happening and a good list of suggestions for supporting self-organization.

After the Open Space

Jack Martin Leith, Bristol UK, shares this post on what to do after Opening Space. How to keep all those projects going?

When planning your Open Space meeting, you’ll need to think about how you’ll ensure that ideas emerging from the meeting will be brought to fruition, and how the issues identified by participants will be resolved effectively once everyone is back at their workplace. Please be fully aware that this is a very big challenge. More…

It’s a great and detailed post. And Jack’s always got great diagrams to go with the explanations.

Finishing with Impact and Energy

In a recent conversation about how to keep the action going after an Open Space meeting or event, Diana Larsen added something simple and, I think, quite new:

More and more often, in any kind of action planning (OS or otherwise) I have abandoned the idea of finding group consensus on the “important” issues. What’s “important” is much too abstract and often involves what we think _other_ people, the proverbial “they” should do. So I don’t ask about importance anymore.

Instead I’ve begun to rely more on the group asking itself two fast rounds of questions, about impact and energy:

First, each person votes on which issues would have the most “impact” if worked on further. That provides some additional data to the group. (I usually use some kind of stickers rather than colored dots – dinosaurs anyone? It just adds some fun. I also like the idea of tickets instead of dots here…I’ll have to try that.)

Then second, I ask each person to put a small number of different stickers (1-3) on whichever issues they personally have the “energy” for moving forward (or if there is room, to stand next to where those issues are posted). We notice where the pattern of energy lies compared with their overall perspective on impact. And we follow the energy, which more or less equals passion.

After that, groups of people create action plans on anything someone has the energy to work on, in another round of OS-style sessions, complete with Law of Two feet, bumblebees, etc. And each group reports out ‘first next steps’. Not the whole plan, just the first action or two, because we know the plan will necessarily change as people implement the first steps and learn more. In the Agile software world, we say “inspect and adapt” and “respond to change rather than following a plan.” So that’s the expectation. People will try a few things, learn more, adjust the plan, try a few more things, etc.

Opening in Two Languages at Once

Deborah Hartmann and Esther Matte worked together to open the RoCoCo camp event recently in Montreal. They did that in French and in English, taking things paragraph-by-paragraph, repeating everything in two languages. Then they came to the OSLIST to talk about how others do it. Harrison Owen offered an elegant approach…

When Michael Pannwitz and I did the Open Space for 2000 in Wurtzburg, Germany — we did everything all at once. The situation may have been a little different as most people spoke German and some English. Also in the plenary session (Opening) we had simultaneous translation. But in any event we did a duo. At the start Michael went one way in the circle, I went the other — and after we crossed at the starting point, we just wandered all over, everywhere. When we started I announced that Michael was not going to translate, rather he would do his thing, I would do mine, and hopefully we would end at the same place, which I think we did. It took a little longer, but we also had a lot of fun doing it together. The best part was Michael’s comments on what I had to say. One time after a rather lengthy discourse on my part (maybe 30 sec.) Michal came in with just a single word. Everybody howled. Wonderful!

Believing in Open Space

Gerard Muller shared this a while back on the OSLIST, notes from a session at the OSonOS practitioner conference he hosted earlier this year:

Issue: Beliefs: What beliefs are important to attract OST clients? What beliefs do the organizations need for successfull OST? What are important beliefs for good OST Facilitators?

We attract our experience based on beliefs held especially at the subconscious mind. It is important to consider what limiting beliefs or fears we have in doing and attracting OST and then create new empowering beliefs of what we want instead. These new beliefs attract a new reality/experience.

Some Beliefs:
I am open enough to hold space.
I have the energy I need to facilitate.
I have the courage to say no when the conditions are not right for OST.
I know when the conditions are right for OST.
I believe that groups find the energy to come to action.
I easily communicate the principles of OST & they get it.
I attract people that live the principles of OST.
I trust the process of OST and it works for me.
I am open to the outcome in OST.
OST always works and I trust it.
I create the space for people to be engaged and responsible when I
I know how to invite and I attract the right people that are needed.
When I make mistakes, I open the space for myself and others to learn.
I believe in the responsibility of all the people involved.
Wisdom leads to harmony.
The wisdom is always in the room.
I am Open Space.
I hold the attitude and essence of Open Space.

Evaluation Using Post-Its

Interesting reference to OST from New Zealand 2007:

I also don’t use ‘happy sheet’ evaluations but two post-its – on one they write what was ‘good’ and on the other what they want ‘more of’. One of the ‘goods’ was ‘responsive style, no set agenda – great’ much like the feedback I received from ACES when we used Open Space Technology on their LTA Co-ordinators Retreat.This open, facilitative approach is more risky but has much more meaning for the participants as it addresses their needs rather than our agenda. However, there are still some who just want to be given ‘the answer’ or ‘how to do it’ – a bit like students really!

Opening Space within Traditional Conference Structures

Thanks to Zelle Nelson for compiling a new collection of stories about Open Space being used in conjunction with keynote speakers, pre-planned breakout sessions, powerpoint presentations, and other traditional confereance structures.

Meanwhile, Tenneson Woolf has started an interesting thread in the OSLIST email community, retro-fitting a traditional conference with all kinds of new spaces, some of them more and some less specifically like Open Space. When you get to his post, click the arrow/lightbulb button to read more posts in this thread.

Finding a Good Theme

I often describe Open Space as a “practice in invitation.” At the center of every invitation is a theme, in the same way that at the center of every meeting/circle is a purpose. The theme is the clearest possible statement of the purpose. Here’s a bit of what OST originator Harrison Owen had to say recently, when asked about “good themes for Opening Space…”

…I doubt that there is any such thing as a “generic good theme.” But I have found that there are some general criteria:

  • Short — anything more than a half dozen words is usually too long.
  • Always stated as a question — questions open space. Statements close it.
  • In the language of the people — every organization or group of people has its own special language and code words. The theme should be stated in that language/words. This is
    one reason why a great theme for one group will automatically be a dud for
  • Cuts to the heart of the matter — there is a place for diplomatic statement, but not here. Verbal obfuscation rarely arouses passion — and you want a lot of passion.

A really good theme will be so specific to that group that others will simply not notice it, or if noticed, then not inspired [by it]. Read the full OSLIST posting…

Once you have a theme that fits like this, the rest of the invitation is usually a slam dunk. Just tell them where and when to show up!

Open Wide, Even if Briefly

Ralph Copleman, an OS veteran who’s been around since OS started, posted this bit of brilliance to the OSLIST today:

Here’s what I think about trying to do it all in one day…

I don’t bother trying to get proceedings printed, let alone distributed and reviewed. That’s for later. I operate out of the belief that one day is not enough to truly explore the territory (the “issues and opportunities”) plus come to conclusion about priorities plus formulate action plans. You can do it, but it will not, in my experience, have much sticking power. And the larger the group, the more challenging it is to make the energy last.

So I open space, hold the space, close the space.

The latter, for me, requires about 20 minutes (not counting a closing circle, which I always do in one form or another, sometimes abbreviated to one word or phrase per person).

  1. Ask people what themes came up repeatedly regardless of topic or session. Ask someone to note these on flip charts.
  2. Keep going until everyone who wishes has a chance to mention the theme they noticed.
  3. Take the resultant flip charts, spread them on the floor, ask people to mark their favorites. Might be three, five, seven, etc. Depends on the size of the group and the number of items on the chart. Count them up if there’s time. Certainly count them up if you’ll be moving on to action planning the next day. Otherwise, simply promise the info will be available shortly in written form (after the coordinators pull it together and send it out).

(Where did I learn to do it this way? I do not remember, but I think from Harrison. Is it in the book?)

Simple, fast, everyone’s involved, no fancy footwork on my part. I can think of a thousand group dynamics issues and eventualities that I have not covered by doing things this way. My conviction is few if any of them really matter. Dealing with them, I have learned from finally acknowledging feedback I could not hear for years, was more about my needs than the client’s.

Organizations of all types may be better served if we open the space W I D E and let lots of air and light in than if we merely crack a window for a brief time in the name of completing the entire exercise in a short period.

Two updated offerings from Michael Herman

Michael Herman, who has provided lots of resources to the Open Space community over the years, has just released two updated offerings:

Open Space Technology: Inviting Leadership Practice – reviews the basics of Open Space, considers its evolution, and points to its dissolving into the ongoing practice of Inviting Leadership.

Open Space Technology: An Inviting Guide
– a short guide for Inviting Leaders, with new meeting/event planning worksheet and notes on sustaining action after the big meeting.

What a nice thing to do a week before he gets married!

(Congrats Michael, from the whole posting team!)