Inviting Creativity and Action from our Collective Intelligence…


Educing Creativity and Responsibility…

Because the agenda of an Open Space meeting is emergent, it is impossible to know exactly what is going to be addressed during the meeting. That said, there are several important outcomes that always happen, because they are specifically built into the process, and some other outcomes that can be built in:

  1. All of the issues that are most important to those attending will be raised and included in the agenda.
  2. All of the issues raised will be addressed by the participants best capable of getting something done about them.
  3. All of the most important ideas, recommendations, discussions, and next steps will be documented in a report.
  4. When the purpose requires, and time is allowed for it, the group can prioritize the issues addressed in the report.
  5. When the purpose requires, and time is allowed for it, the group can draft action plans for the highest priority issues.
  6. Good documentation design is vital for ideas, recommendations, discussions, and next steps, it is part of the pre-work to make a good design.

Ideal initial conditions:

  1. A real business issue that people care about, that it is something worth talking about.
  2. Mind numbing complexity, such that no single person or small group fully understands or can solve the issue.
  3. High levels of much diversity, in terms of the skills and people required for a successful resolution (far-reaching, boundless).
  4. Much passion and real or potential conflict, which implies that people genuinely care about the issue.
  5. Real sense of urgency, meaning the time for decisions and action was “yesterday”.

Not suitable when:

We are not ready to do Open Space. When we are:

  1. without a real business issue, nobody cares.
  2. without complexity, there is really no reason to have a meeting (solve it!).
  3. without diversity there is not sufficient richness in the points of view to achieve novel solutions.
  4. without passion and conflict—there is no juice to move things along.
  5. without a real sense of urgency, all that wonderful passion loses focus and power.

The essential preconditions are:

  1. A relatively safe neutral environment.
  2. High levels of diversity and complexity in terms of the elements to be self-organized.
  3. Living at the edge of chaos. Nothing will happen if everything is sitting like a lump.
  4. An inner drive towards improvement. e.g. a carbon atom wants to get together with other atoms to become a molecule.
  5. Sparsity of connections.

Typical event process:

  1. Opening Circle (agenda co-creation process at the start, without the facilitator helping / synthesizing / suggesting / reducing topics)
  2. At the beginning of an open space the participants sit in a circle, or concentric circles.
  3. Facilitator’s explanation of principles and law (calling them guidelines, invitations, whatever)
  4. Multiple conversations ideally happening around the same big space, ideally several discussion sessions across time (without the facilitator helping those groups)
  5. Closing Circle (comment and reflection)

Open Space is the only process that focuses on expanding time and space for the force of self-organisation to do its thing. Although one can’t predict specific outcomes, it’s always highly productive for whatever issue people want to attend to. Some of the inspiring side effects that are regularly noted are laughter, hard work which feels like play, surprising results and fascinating new questions. — Michael M Pannwitz, Open Space practitioner