Refining the Four Practices

Still noodling on these four practices of Open Space that Chris got me thinking about again. Thinking that we can refine the naming, notice tools and conditions and effects, as well.

For instance, the first practice is Opening or Expanding. The primary tool for this is our Passion, those things we really care about, are curious about, and especially (going back to the etymology of Passion) those things that cause us suffering, that bother us, that we want to be different. These are the things that stretch or tease or even break us Open. The spirit or necessary condition of Opening is Willingness, as opposed to denial, avoidance, or even indifference. The effect is Embrace, the ability to be with, to be open, without grabbing for what is wanted and without contracting away from real suffering. This is the Heart of Life, the juice.

The second practice is Inviting, with the primary tool being Goodness, benefits to self and others. Nobody wants to really show up to anything unless they think it’s going to be Good. The invitation names the Good and Invites people to make more of it. The spirit or condition required here is Truth. The Good, the benefits, have to be real and true, not just spin. The effect then is Good Story or Vision which provides True Direction, the way forward. This the Brain of Life, eyes, ears, voice.

The third practice is Organizing, with the primary tool being structure, that is, the rules, agreements, boundaries, levels, boxes, buckets, hierarchies, webservers, conference rooms, town halls, curricula and everything else we use to make order. The necessary spirit and condition here is that of Hosting or Holding, in every sense from hosting parties, to conferences, visitors from out of town, even websites. The effect is supporting, some might say safe, Space… for movement and activity, for learning and development, for play and production. This is the Pelvis, the bowl that hosts and holds our Guts, on which Heart and Brain depend and stack.

The fourth practice is Leading, the real surprise being that most of management and leadership literature would have us believe that nothing could be bigger than leadership! And yet here we are suggesting that it is but one of four dimensions, the outwardly observable, individual practice whose primary tool is Position. Leadership takes a Position, takes a stand and takes steps, makes moves and does it first, as a model and way for others. The necessary condition and spirit is that of Responsibility, for oneself. The effect of Leadership is Grounding, accountability, traction, reality, results, production, making real, leaving footprints and paying the bills. This is the Legs and Feet of Life, that we extend to and into the world, to get things done.

Finally, noticing these Practices as Cycle or Seasons, we see that the self that takes responsibility as Leader in the fourth practice will expand and grow as Life goes on, with a new round of Opening, Inviting and Organizing. This is how Life goes on as physical, organizational, community and other kinds of body. The tool in the cycle is Practice, the necessary spirit and condition is perhaps Devotion. The ultimate effect is Life Sustaining.

(UPDATE: These last two things, leadership and practice need to merge. The fourth practice probably is Leading or Grounding, with the tool being Practice, taking a position, taking responsibility, taking action, in the flow, in the cycle, in the action. The necessary spirit or condition must be responsibility, for an opening, expanding and yet still distinct and apparently separate self. Perhaps there is still room for Devotion or Faith in the Practice. And then, yes, the effect would have to be Life Sustaining Action. Clearly this needs more noodle time.)

I’m wondering if this could extend what we’ve already done as InvitingOrganizationEmerges into something that turns bookish, in the direction of Expanding Leadership, Inviting Organization: A Practice Guide. Seems could tell the story of how to lead, as well as how to follow, from any position in organization or community. How to embody it as an individual as well.

4 Replies to “Refining the Four Practices”

  1. howdy,

    these are fabulous… i look forward to more.

    i’m a little late in responding and reading… but after your first post, michael, i got all excited about these practices and began playing with them in my own language… and in regards to the work i do. i’ve only dipped, but i’ll share what i came up with:

    practice of opening: resting in what is and allowing flow to move through. Being Available and Receptive. Following the depths of curiosity, giving attention to wonder and awe. Freeing up blocked energy, honoring and moving through contractions.

    Practice of inviting: Accentuating openings and requesting engagement through curiosity and exploration of passion and interest. Extending opportunity for connection.
    (and a side note. i’ve been reflecting that Dreaming (during awake time) is Invitation without expectation.)

    for leadership… i think that an important aspect is following. Following Guidance and attention with courage and presence. inviting connection and participation in following passion and purpose. Riding the growing edge while staying connected to and aware of environment. Surrendering to power that moves through and honoring the power in all (as a means of transcending the myth of control and power over).

    some flavors to add to the soup,

  2. Michael…we’ll bring Dave Stevenson into this conversation as well, for more thoughts in the somatic stuff.

    In the I Ching, these things are mapped onto seasonal maps as well…I have a version of the classic that deepens this relationship.

    I like this…Organizing though seems a little mundane to my ear. Certainly Hosting captures it, becasue there is inner work to organizing too and the essence of organizing IS that Holding energy, not DOING. There is doing in organizing but doing well means doing in concert with these other practices.

    More to come…

Comments are closed.

© 1998-2020 Michael Herman. All Rights Reserved.