About Harrison Owen

Harrison Owen was an author, consultant and photographer. Throughout his professional life, he explored the world and himself, seeking the ways and means of transformation, towards a deeper understanding of who we all are and how we may live productively with meaning and purpose. His journey was always interesting, sometimes exciting, and on more than one occasion — deeply rewarding.


Harrison’s academic background and training centered on the nature and function of myth, ritual and culture. In the middle ’60s, he left academe to work with a variety of organizations including small West African villages, large corporations and NGOs, urban (American and African) community organizations, Peace Corps, Regional Medical Programs, National Institutes of Health, and Veterans Administration.

Along the way he discovered that his study of myth, ritual and culture had direct application to these social systems. In 1977 he created H.H.Owen and Company in order to explore the culture of organizations in transformation as a theorist and practicing consultant. Harrison convened the First International Symposium on Organization Transformation, and was the originator of Open Space Technology.

His major concern was to assist organizations as they negotiate a transforming world. In some cases his role was little more than holding the hands of the anxious. In other situations his function was more overt, assisting organizations in the sometimes painful process of self-understanding and renewal. In all situations the organizational mythology and culture was the focal point, and the power of self-organization the ultimate driver.


Harrison Owen was President of H.H.Owen and Co. A partial list of consulting client engagements and presentations includes: Owens/Corning Fiberglas, Procter and Gamble, Dupont, Eastern Virginia Medical Authority, Shell/Netherlands, Shell Tankers (Dutch), Shell/Canada, The French Ministry of Telecommunications (PTT), The US Forest Service, The US Internal Revenue Service, Jonathan Corporation, The US Army, Ikea (Sweden), Statoil (Norway), SAS Airlines, Young Presidents Organization, City University Business School (London), Gronigen University Business School (Holland), Taj Hotel Group (India), Congresso De Desarrollo Organizacional (Mexico), PepsiCola (Venezuela), National Education Association, Toronto-Dominion Bank (Canada), American Management Systems, American Society of Training and Development, Scott Paper, TELCEL/Venezuela, The American Society of Association Executives, The Presbyterian Church (USA), The Accor Hotel Group (France), Ermetek Corp (South Africa), The Union of International Associations (Belgium), Rockport Shoes, Corporate Express, The World Bank, AT&T, IBM, USWEST, The Organization Development Network, Lucent Technologies, The Bank of Montreal, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Banner Health, The YWCA(USA), The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, MicroSoft, and the UN.


Harrison authored numerous books and multiple papers. His first book, “When the Devil Dances” was a photographic essay with commentary depicting life in a small West African Village. Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide has informed the practice of uncountable leaders and facilitators. The Practice of Peace explored the ways in which the powers of self-organization might lead us to Peace — if we will only cooperate. His last was Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self Organizing World. Along the way, Harrison explored the nature of leadership, the evolution of consciousness in organizations, Organization Transformation, the power of myth and culture — and of course, Open Space Technology. Just about half of Harrison’s books are now out of print, which he said “is probably a good thing.” For those that remain, and also a selection of his papers, click on the appropriate URL below.


Harrison Owen was a photographer for forty odd years. He photographed the Kpelle people in West Africa, Carnivals in Pennsylvania, and Lobstermen on Long Island Sound.  He lived in Potomac, Maryland, a short walk from the C&O Canal and the Potomac River, and spent summers in Camden, Maine.