Harrison Owen Books

These books by Harrison Owen will be helpful for your exploration of  Self-organizing systems, Open Space Technology and the Open Space of your life. See also Papers.

Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide (3rd Edition, Berrett-Koehler). This 3rd edition contains very useful new material explaining how to work with the client before an Open Space and a deeper introduction to fine art of doing nothing, which we call Holding Space.Also included are the specifics about time, place, logistics, invitation and follow-up. Special attention is devoted to the preparation of the facilitator and when not to use OST. 3rd Edition at Amazon | 1st Edition Preface and Chapter One

Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self Organizing World (Berrett Koehler, Fall 2008) This book is based on the possibly outrageous premise that there is no such thing as a non-self organizing system, albeit there are some mildly deluded people who think they did the organizing and remain in control. In a totally self organizing world the role of Leadership takes a new, not to say revolutionary turn. Gone is the possibility of rigid control and effective leaders will be those who learn to appreciate and ride the cascading waves of self-organization. Utilizing the 20 years’ experience with Open Space Technology combined with the findings of contemporary Complexity Science, the fine art of wave riding is described.  Amazon

The Practice of Peace (Human Systems Dynamics Institute) The Practice of Peace is the distillation of almost 20 years experience in Open Space. Strange as it may seem, when space is opened Peace, at a remarkable level, seems to break out.. Apparently it happens all by itself. Definitely good news in a less than peaceful world. Author’s Note |Download

The Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform  (Berrett-Koehler) This book is about Spirit and the ways in which Spirit forms and transforms in organizations. In the face of organizational dysfunction and a massive outbreak of Soul Pollution (stress and burnout), the message of this book is clear. Things do not have to be this bad. Profits may be soaring, and so should the human Spirit, and it can – provided we learn to appreciate and care for Spirit’s new manifestation in a transforming world. Amazon

The Spirit of Leadership (Berrett-Koehler) All about leadership in Open Space, a very different thing than the traditional command and control. Liberating the human Spirit to achieve its potential is the name of the game, and that is precisely the Open Space experience. It could become the everyday experience. Amazon

Expanding Our Now (Berrett-Koehler,) What is Open Space Technology, and why does it work, particularly when it apparently violates all the rules of meeting and organizational management? The global experience to date is described and the search initiated for the new rules by which Open Space operates. It seems to have more than a little to do with self-organizing systems and ancient mythology. Amazon

Previously Published by Harrison Owen 

The following books were published by Abbot Publishing and are now out of print. The full original versions can still be downloaded here as .pdf files.

Spirit: Transformation and Development in Organizations (Abbott, 1987) This is Harrison Owen’s first book which charted some new directions in what has become known as Organization Transformation. At the time of publication it was viewed somewhat askance, a viewpoint strengthened by an early review in the Utne Reader, which termed the book a “cult classic.” Today, with the growing interest in Spirit and Consciousness in organizations, it will seem closer to the mainstream, but still pushing at the edges. There is nothing about Open Space Technology in the book, but more than a passing mention of the Open Space in our lives. Download

Riding the Tiger: Doing Business in a Transforming World (Abbott, 1991) This book bridges the gap between the thoughts relating to Spirit and Consciousness offered in Spirit and the world of Open Space Technology. As a special bonus, the original “User’s Guide” appears at the end of the book. For a number of years this brief version was all that existed, eventually replaced by Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide (Berrett-Koehler, 1997). It is said that some people actually bought the book just for the Brief User’s Guide. Download

Tales From Open Space (Owen, Editor) In this book, journalists, practitioners, and just plain folks share their experiences with Open Space Technology, and reflect upon the outcomes. If you want case studies, here they are. Download

The Millennium Organization (Abbott, 1994) The fundamental character of the Millennium Organization is revealed in its celebration of life as an Open System, constantly engaged in dialogue with the world around. It’s characterized by High Learning, High Play, Appropriate Structure and Control, Genuine Community and the Primacy of Spirit. Download

Edited by Harrison Owen 

John’s Story: A Loma Tale of Tradition and Change, by John Koluba The juxtaposition of the opening poem, I Love War, followed by the sometimes transcendently beautiful description of Loma life is harsh, maybe even shattering. But in my mind that juxtaposition creates the space in which you may experience both the horror and the wonder that John evokes. Doubtless there are a number of scholarly efforts describing tribal life and practice with greater accuracy and detail, but I sincerely doubt that any could match John’s story for the authentic feel that only one who has lived there can create. Download

Recommended by Harrison Owen

Order out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature (Ilya Priogene and Isabel Stengers /Radical Thinkers, English translation 2018) For those who wish to pursue OST and Self-Organization more deeply, an absolutely MUST read. Truly revolutionary, and it may well rank as one of the critical turning points in our understanding of the universe we live in. (This was Harrison’s last book recommendation, in his last message to the OSLIST.)

Leading Consciously (Debashis Chatterjee/ Butterwork-Heinmann, 1998) The application of the wisdom of India to the Function of Leadership. Brilliant!

Leadership and The New Science (Meg Wheatley/ Berrett-Koehler, 1993) Chaos and complexity theory applied to the understanding of leadership in organizations. 

The Change Handbook: Group Methods for shaping the future (Peggy Holman and Tom Devin, editors /Berrett-Koehler 1999) A compendium of all the “whole system interventions” written by the people who created them with introductory comments and analysis by Peg and Tom.. Pricey, but useful for those who want to see the forest and the trees.

Chaos: Making A New Science (Gleick, James / Penguin Books, 1987) A great “read” by a good historian of science. A great introduction to chaos/complexity theory and those who created it.

Frontiers of Complexity: The Search for Order in a Chaotic World (Coveney, Peter and Highfield, Roger / Fawcett Columbine, 1995) An updated report from the wonderful world of complexity and chaos.

Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World (Kelly, Kevin / Addison Wesley, 1995) The executive editor of Wired Magazine shares his insights into the world that is coming to be. Believe me Toto, this is not Kansas.

The Selfish Gene (Dawkins, Richard / Oxford New York, 1989) A radical way of viewing the process of evolution which may be uncomfortable, but definitely thought provoking.

At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and complexity (Kauffman, Stuart / Oxford University Press, 1995) A theoretical biologist, once from The Santa Fe institute, shares his thoughts about self-organization in the biological world. In so far as we, as human beings, cannot escape out biology, the laws of self-organization would apply to us as well. At least that is one possible interpretation of the Open Space experience.

A Brief History of Everything (Wilber, Ken / Shambala, 1996) A wonderful introduction to the profound thought and observations of Ken Wilber. And also a broad theoretical framework from which to understand the experience of Open Space. Is Ken right? Who knows.

A Theory of Everything (Wilber, Ken /Shambala, 2000) Ken Wilber, one more time, but now with very direct applications to business, science and politics. Very useful think as we explore the world of Open Space — and our position in that world. Waren Bennis says, “This is the book I have been longing for.” That may be a little much. But it is super-good.

The Fourfold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary (Arrien, Angeles / Harper Collins, 1993) A powerful preparation for Open Space and the Open Space of our lives by a woman who has been there.  

The Bhagavadgita: A Walkthrough for Westerners (Hawley, Jack / New World Library, 2001)  A classic in modern dress — and perhaps the original guide to Open Space — at least the open space of our lives.