26th November 2021 by Steve Holyer

Should I do X (for my Open Space Event)?

This model is wrong. But I think it's strangely useful.

We practice and teach “classic” Open Space Technology.

What does that mean?

What about other ways to Open Space?

As a facilitator or organiser, can you 'add' or 'subtract' or 'copy/paste' with Open Space Technology?

Is it still Open Space Technology when you do?

I was asking myself these questions today. I started thinking of a flowchart, and then I created one in the image linked below. In the end, I'm always asking “How can we open more space?” (The question is also one of the guiding principles for our workshop.)

People are using the term “Open Space” to mean all kinds of things, and people are trying out many ways to transform the world of work ... not to mention the world of the world.

This makes our workshop cohorts very interesting since we teach "classic" open space. We mean Open Space Technology as we understand it is described in Open Space Technology: A User's Guide by Harrison Owen. I think that is also a key value to this workshop.

We start with “classic” Open Space because we think Harrison found a very organic way to effectively create change in our messy communities when he “discovered” Open Space Technology. He found a natural way to move wicked problems, and that is what makes it a surprisingly effective way to make a difference today.

Open Space is open.

It's happening all around us.

So I can't—and I won't—say that you can't expand on "classic" Open Space. But I also have many experiences of people changing OST ('adding' or 'subtracting' or simply 'copy/pasting'), and I have seen that it resulted in reduced impact. I want people to understand how and why Open Space Technology matters—developing fluency in how it naturally works—so people can use it for it's full power.

We start with "classic" Open Space, and then the question is always:

 How does this open more space?


 How might this impact mobility —which is the natural law driving the Open Space?

I have found when you understand the intentions behind OST (and have a basic understanding of the complexity science baked into it), you can hold the space for the outcomes that must emerge from the group. That often means you don't have to add or subtract (or copy/paste) anything.

I kinda figure this flowchart is gonna get me "in trouble". It's hard to capture the organic complexity of Open Space in a decision tree flowchart.

This graphical thinking tool is not really fit for purpose when it comes to capturing Open Space, but it really helped me organise some thoughts. And led me to asking more questions. I found myself building more space for emergence introducing some “fuzzy” thinking into a binary decision tree. FUN!

This helped me think again about why we do what we do in the Open Space Leadership course. It helped me understand Open Space Technology better. (I think it's also still a work in progress. There is more to explore.)

The map is NEVER the territory.

As George Box said, "All models are wrong but some are useful."

I think this model is especially wrong, but also strangely useful.

What do you think? Would help me with it by adding to it or sharing your thoughts on it?

OST Should I Do It Holding Space.002

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Should I do X (for my Open Space Event)?

26th November 2021

This flowchart will get me “in trouble”. It’s really hard to capture the organic complexity of Open Space in a decision tree flowchart. This flowchart as graphical thinking tool is really not fit for purpose when it comes to capturing Open Space.

We practice and teach “classic” Open Space what does that mean? This flowchart helped me think about what it means to ‘add’, ‘subtract’ and ‘copy/paste’ when holding an event with Open Space Technology.


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photo ©2018 Josef Dabernig (@dasjo) Zürich Switzerland
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