Michael Herman
Opening Space for Business Agility


From: john engle via OpenSpaceTechnology/OSLIST email listserve

open space in an hour

...wanted to share a first time experience for me that occured yesterday. During my time here in Georgia, my friend who is Chair of Anthropology at Berry College arranged for me to come speak with her students and anyone else interested. Yesterday at 5:00 pm, I had one hour to explore the theme, "How can North Americans help meet the needs of today's world?" People came because they were interested in the subject. No credits would be received. It was not replacing a regular class. My friend and I thought it might draw 10 maybe 20 people.

60 came and crowded into a relatively small room. Participants, which included students, the College's provost, the dean of students, and several department chairs sat in a circle. I shared that I had two objectives for the time: help them have an idea about my work in Haiti, and provide them with a powerful tool for organizing and empowering people. I asked them to imagine that our group was going to be spending one or two days together instead of one hour. The room was set up with all the normal open space props.

By 5:35, the group had responded to my invitation and 12 subjects were posted on the bulletin board by students and two department chairs. I had created the possibility for a session to last from 5:30 to 5:50, and one to be dealt with in cyberspace using Beyond Borders' discussion forum.

Someone present proposed that instead of breaking up into groups, with such limited time, people would have the opportunity to ask about results using Open Space, and be able to discuss in a large group, how subjects which were posted might be dealt with after the group dispersed.

Students, the provost, professors asked good questions. People also asked questions of the people who posted subjects. It was determined that another open space meeting lasting a half to a full day would be organized to treat the subjects. My friend, the Anthropology chair, who has never done an open space, volunteered to facilitate.

At 6:00 pm, when I closed the meeting, I received an energetic applause. Numerous people stayed after to express their intrigue and satisfaction in learning about Open Space.

As Brian Bainbridge and others have expressed to me, "You open space however you can and in whatever circumstances you can and normally it will lead to the creation of more open space."

for more about john's work: http://www.beyondborders.net/experiment.htm