Open Space Practices Refined

I woke up New Year’s Day with new language for what I’ve posted previously as “Open Space Practices”. That is, what is it that I think I’m really doing when I’m facilitating Open Space — or working or just living in it?

opening heart – might be a physical embrace or simply a time of quiet reflection, eventually some theme or purpose might arise. in open space, it is the themes and purposes that arise in the hearts of leaders that we turn into invitations. by opening heart, we discover or rediscover the thing(s) we love. to open heart we almost always need to rest.

inviting attention – might mean getting up on a soap box to speak our truth, or sitting down and really listening to somebody. in open space, the invitation comes from listening and then goes out to invite more conversation. by inviting attention we open new views and sharpen focus. to invite attention we almost always need to ask questions and tell stories, about what was, what is now, and what is next.

supporting connection – could be as simple as a business card, a handshake or walking hand in hand, but might be as complex as social and analytical software tools. in open space we use circle, bulletin board, the law of two feet in a marketplace of ideas and conversations. by supporting connection we make conversation, decision-making, and commitment possible. to support connection, we almost always need to open and hold spaces for people, work, and information to move.

grounding the energy – might be as simple as a souvenir, a journal entry, a summary document or action plan. in open space it’s usually a proceedings document and the actions that it guides, but it could be anything that marks or documents what’s new and different and helps to make it more real and lasting. to grounding the energy we almost always have to take responsibility, for recognizing, creating and/or securing value.

What I like about this version is that the four of them finally seem to match each other, each one now languaged as part of the same whole. They seem simple enough to think about actually doing and complex enough to truly practice. I think they work on many levels, from working professionally with organizations to living intimately with a partner or family. Finally, and most importantly, they seem an accurate account of what I’m attempting in my own life, not just things I’m explaining and suggesting that others should try.

UPDATE: I was facilitating Open Space today (140 CFPs in Austin, TX) and as I’m setting up, I’m restless as usual before the start. What should I be doing? “..oh, yes, just open my heart…” I think, and relax into that. In a few moments, it’s time to start, what to do now? “…oh, yes, ring the bells, invite attention…” and then as soon as everyone gathers, I support connection, with eyes, and briefing marketplace and bulletin board and proceedings typing. This was a short one, so I ring bells at the end of sessions, as reminders, grounding. And invite comment at the end of the day, evening news, evening grounding. We try it again tomorrow. Practice.

6 Replies to “Open Space Practices Refined”

  1. Dear Michael,

    I love how these practices are evolving. I am inspired by the transferability, the ways in which the practices encompass the process of authentically experiencing and engaging, carrying that which has meaning and value forward into new depths and heights.

    I resonate deeply with the new language and an image comes to my mind of the Gestalt contact cycle

    Resting in a place of withdrawal, with an open heart, one experiences a sensation of arising passion, inspiration, or idea. Attention is invited; attention is focused about that which is present and that which is circling around the edges — Awareness.

    Supporting the connections, energy is mobilized and guided towards action, supported in making contact — connecting. And not to be abandoned at this successful union, the energy is grounded as it cycles, reformed, back into the body, inviting a place of stillness and rest…ready for what comes next.

    Upon the edges of my own curiosity: How do we take the guiding soul of this collective process into an individual’s body and psyche experience where it touches upon the cellular memory of sustained transformation generated through the peak experience of opening space.

    with deep gratitude,

  2. thank you, ashley. and your diagram reminds me of another view… that sensation is overlaid with emotion and then story and then action and we can get stuck there until we come back to awareness of sensations as a result of action… not sure how all of that fits with the practices, though. sensations, emotions, thoughts, actions… levels of practice awareness… and notice too that there are dimensions of dimensions, i.e. the quadrants are fractal, quads within quads… each of the first views of practice, these four dimensions, being its own tinier cycle of the four… try it out and see if you don’t find the place, for instance, inside of supporting connection that begins with opening heart and inviting attention… rich.

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