Michael Herman
Opening Space for Business Agility

 
 
 
Opening Expectations

The general assumption about OpenSpaceTechnology meetings is usually that they are totally unstructured. Well, that may be true in the very beginning, but through the preparation and meeting opening processes, a detailed agenda is developed by many many people, including and beginning with the sponsors. This agenda is not so much created as it is surfaced from the minds and hearts of those involved. That is why the agenda always fits the people and the situation so precisely.

In a discussion today on the OpenSpaceTechnology/OSLIST about preparations, expectations, "givens," and boundaries, Elwin Gould, who does a lot of work internationally in developing countries and conflict situations, offered a beautiful bit on preparation and opening space:

I do find something very useful in dealing with the sponsor’s “givens” [in advance] ...and that is what I gain from listening to them.

Typically I hold a round table meeting with the sponsoring powers (sometimes the night before the event). I announce that I want them, one at a time, to inform me about what they expect.

After they have all spoken, I repeat, in summarized fashion, what each has told me. Then I ask them if they are satisfied that I clearly understood their expectations. After they all say yes, I state that what they expect is NOT what they will get! Rather, they will get something that they will view as far better. “Something” that will surprise everyone. Finally, I say, "When it’s over, if you don’t agree, then don’t pay me!"

The process of listening to them is what I draw on in Opening Space. It provides me with a seemingly “true” sense of what is going on in their minds as well as in the minds of the participants. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

I'm not sure it gets much better than that, if we dare be so mutual and put our money where everybody's mouth -- and mind -- really is. I think if I were to put my fee on the line like Elwin does, I would want to hedge a bit... and ask them to watch very carefully! I'm sure the discussions afterward are fantastic, too.