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On 5/2/05, Stephen Shapiro <steve@sshapiro.com> wrote:
> When how did you discover open space?  How did you get involved?  How long
> ago?  I am trying to complete your story...but not sure what it is yet.  How
> did you discover your "calling?"

I went out on my own 14 years ago, 1991. I went along for the first five years or so allowing myself one big training workshop and some book buying each year. I found the OST "User's Guide" in 1995. I remember it touching me deeply, to the point of changing the way I sat in the chair. It seemed just so right, and also seemed like it could not be bought. So that year I took a training program in something else.

A year later, I followed a wonderfully serendipitous string of meetings and referrals that led me to a conference called "Totally Fulfilling Business." My interest in Open Space was still strong and I'd just managed to schedule my first OS meetings, but I'd never actually seen it done. The TFB conference was my first introduction to the real thing, and as luck would have it, Harrison Owen, the originator of the approach, was also there as a participant.

It was the proverbial moment of ready student noticing teacher appearing. I posted a topic for conference discussion, not unrelated to the challenge of goal-free living and working: "Democratic Self-Organization... or how do we teach responsibility?" I was stuck in this paradox of how to be responsible without pushing, organized without controlling, effective without effort. Harrison answered my question directly. "I don't!" he says, "I just look for what's working and then ask people how we can make more of that."

That cut through a lot of confusion for me and I began practicing that directly. Whenever I found myself getting stuck, I literally sat down, made lists of things that were "working," and then looked for ways to use and grow them.

A few months later, Harrison came to Chicago for an OST training workshop. I traded marketing help for a tuition waiver. Nine years later, I've lost count of how many training workshops Harrison and I have done together.

Along the way, I got frustrated feeling like the junior partner. I pencilled out my own workshop design, but filed it away. Three days after the planes brought the Trade Center down, I again sat down, made a list of what was working and what I could do with those assets. I pulled out my design, phoned a colleague and told him: "I think I need to teach this stuff. None of us really knows what's going to happen, but I'm pretty sure we're going to need more Open Space."

Again, I've lost count of how many workshops and talks I gave in the next year or two, all around the world, working with local partners to teach Open Space. I keep trying to quit, but the practice goes on. Every time I quit, I start again, but in some new way. This is how my practice evolves, letting go of the doing and then letting go of the not doing.

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Last edited August 18, 2006 11:42 am CentralTimeUSA by MichaelHerman
© 1998-2019 Michael Herman and www.michaelherman.com, unless signed by another author or organization. Please do not reprint or distribute for commercial purposes without permission and full attribution, including web address and this copyright notice. Permission has always been granted gladly to those who contact me and say something about themselves, their work, and their use of these materials. Thank you and good luck! - Michael