some reflections following a conversation this week with a client, about what to do now that they are several weeks past their first open space meeting, an annual/national sort of managers gathering:
if we make open space a “process” or worse yet a “special process” and focus even casually on it being somehow magic, radical, new or otherwise different, then we make all the benefits, the passion, clarity, movement and results of the “program” unattainable until “leadership” convenes or allows a repeat of the “event.” it tells people that they have to go back to being smaller, in whatever box or bottle they habitually stuff themselves into in order to get along in an “organization.”
if, on the other hand, we understand that open space is just an expanded version, deeper, more focused, more fluid perhaps, of what we already do all the time, it tells people that they should continue to feel good, move freely, and keep maximizing their own learning and contribution. if we remember and remind, in official and casual ways, that open space is common and normal: inviting, conversing, and documenting, it gives people permission to be as caring, engaged and responsible as they can be.
caring, engaged, responsible — these are the things that we can explore, invite, and celebrate in every interaction, every time we pick up a phone or a keyboard. in this way opening space is not just a process. it’s also a posture. a doing and a non-doing(being). it’s the things we do to run a meeting and the way that we are with people everyday. i’ve long suggested “inviting” is a useful way to think about this because it let’s me straddle these to ways. it’s a thing i can do, but it’s also a way that i can aspire to be.
the real practice is the effortless pulsation between the two. at our best, these two appear as one, in the same way that some of lifes most amazing moments arise out of surprisingly ordinary circumstances. when it happens, it seems so easy. when it’s not happening, it can seem completely impossible. but when all else fails, it’s enough to keep asking each other “what matters most right now?” and restart the conversation and action from there.