Not the Four Practices, Again

Try on this updated version of the four “anti-practices” suggested in the last post…

  • Analyzing, the opposite of Appreciating;
  • Facilitating, the opposite of Inviting;
  • Problem-Solving, the opposite of Supporting; and
  • Making a Good Case, the opposite of Making Good.

Yes, I think that Inviting might just be the opposite of the sort of facilitation that coddles, protects, defends, assures, and tries to make sure that everyone gets to speak… and that everyone else has to listen to them. This might explain why some really good facilitators struggle so mightily with Open Space Technology.

Fixing might be generalized to problem-solving in general, and problem-finding in daily practice. ‘Nuf said.

And then, Making a Good Case wants to suggest that the opposite of Good is Best, as Making the Good Case so often means proving and assuring we have and have done what’s Best. This one might end up being called Making Sacrifices, as so much life energy and good work is lost, or wasted, in the process — sacrificed in the name of Best Practices and Measurable Certainty. How much is wasted making sure, , instead of just making good. We chase the ultimate sure thing, free lunch, perfect fit, and best practice — in exchange for the good life we already have and can practice every day — just in case. Maybe it would be more to the point to just say Making Excuses, which happens whenever we don’t think we’re doing good.

OR: How about Playing it Safe?

Nah… I think it’s Making Excuses.

Not the Four Practices

Chris Corrigan and I have been refining our thinking and language for open space leadership. We have it down to four inter-informing and inter-supporting practices: Appreciating, Inviting, Supporting and Making Good.

While the practices themselves are each quite whole and robust, tolerant of description but not of disecting, that’s not actually how it is when we try to practice them as bodies. Incarnation is more discrete. On and off, in or out, dead or alive, male or female. More or less. Appreciating, Inviting, Supporting and Making Good.

So it occurs to me that naming their opposites, daring to notice their dual nature, one might say… could be helpful. Here are my proposals:

  • Analyzing, the opposite of Appreciating;
  • Protecting, the opposite of Inviting;
  • Fixing, the opposite of Supporting; and
  • Wasting, the opposite of Making Good.

These four meet two criteria for me. First, they are sort of obvious literal opposites of our four practices. More importantly, I have some felt sense of what each actually feels like. I can feel when I am doing them. This matters, because it means that I can feel when I’m not doing them. It’s great to notice when I am practicing well, but perhaps more important to be able to notice when I’m losing my way.

I can hear them, too, in the language of colleagues and clients. I know Appreciation gets things moving and I can hear others talk about the “paralysis of analysis.” I know that when people resist using Open Space Technology, they often explain their resistance in terms of protecting others. Or they attempt “modified open space” and speak explicity about fixing and improving the experience of their colleagues. And I hear people decrying business as usual as a waste of time, waste of money, and wasted chances to do good. So these are things I find in the territory, not theories I’m making up out of nothing.

I should add that it’s not that we should stop doing these opposite things altogether, but rather be more conscious of our habits, assumptions, and balance about these things. These opposites have their place and value. And they are all very well supported in western, industrial cultures. The new practices are not. So it’s the balance we need to reconsider, each of us personally, consciously, actively.

These four words aren’t magic, any more than the last four were magic — and I haven’t worked out the all the details. But somehow the marriage of these opposites, the rebalancing, or mutuality of them, allows us to handle in local, personal ways the enormity of what Dave Pollard and author Derrick Jensen are talking about?


Inviting Leadership

Back in Chicago now, after staying on Bowen Island a few extra days after the Practice Retreat to walk in the forest, eat some good soups at the Snug, and work with Chris Corrigan on the story of Inviting Leadership, the latter of which we’ve now distilled to…

  • Appreciating… the Positive Core in people, organizations and communities
  • Inviting… attention to options, needs and choices for the (shared) future
  • Supporting… structures that allow people and information to move and connect
  • Making… good on promise and promises, claiming responsibility for making decisions, changes, and personal contributions

The writing and teaching we’re doing around these are the latest retelling of what began back in 1998 as Inviting Organization and has shown up more recently as the Four Practices of Open Space.

Wondering now about retitling this blog Inviting Leadership, as that is clearly what I’ve been up to with much of my posting here over the last three years. Hmmm… maybe that’s a good way to mark the upcoming 3rd anniversary here, later this month.

Four Practices of Open Space – Update

I’m getting ready for the leadership practice retreat I’ll lead with Chris Corrigan, on Bowen Island, April 18-20th. I’m thinking some more about the four practices of Open Space. Here is the updated view:

  • Opening Heart
  • Inviting Connection
  • Supporting Collaboration
  • Making a Difference

On a personal level, these practices begin with passion, perhaps even some sense of conflict. The key questions are about core issues, the heart of the matter, the center of the problem or situation, which is always me. What do I care about? What do I love? What do I want, for myself and others?

As heart opens, I can invite connection with others. I dare to attract attention. And I have attention of my own to give. What’s happening now? Who is here? What do they have? What do they want? What might we be together?

As invitations and connections are made, the next thing to do is support them. How do we stay connected? How do we learn, move, live, and work together? What rules, tools and structures will get in our way? What rules, tools and structures will support our collaborating?

Then, what is my responsibility here? Given some clarity about what I want, being connected with others, having some space and support, NOW, what will I do? How will I ground this energy I have? How will I use it to make a difference for myself and others? What actions can I now take? What changes can I now make?

I think I bring a fairly typical sort of “results” orientation to life. I work from a list of things I’ve promised (to myself, if not others) that I will DO. I want to see measurable progress and change and improvement in the world(s) that I live in. My mind and body are busy busy busy like everyone else. These practices seem to help orient me in all of that.

I come back over and over again, and notice… What am I doing now? Opening Heart? Inviting Connection? Supporting Collaboration? Grounding my energy in ways that make a difference? What have I been working too hard? What have I been ignoring? Can I focus on just one of these, for just this moment? Can I get back in the flow? Okay, now what? Do it. And come back again…

In our retreat next week, we’ll consider how we apply these practices as facilitators, particpants and leaders, in meetings, conferences, organizations and communities.

Heart Practice

I’ve written previously about the four essential practices of Open Space Technology:

  • Opening Heart
  • Inviting Attention
  • Supporting Connection
  • Grounding the Energy

When I first applied this view to my work, after 10 years of opening space, I found they made everything easier. I could do opening heart, during set-up. Then I could invite attention to start the meeting, and so on. One step, one task, one practice at a time.

In my latest facilitations, however, my learning progresses. I am finding that all I really need to do is the first practice, opening heart, and the rest happens almost automatically. This feels more like a river current carrying me and the rest of the event along.

I can see the other practices go by. I know that I’m doing them. And not doing them. At my best, they are becoming more like things that go by in a river, rather than goals or tasks I swim toward, accomplish, or do.

As I rest, relax, and open the space that we might normally refer to as heart, I find that the mental and physical state that arises leads naturally into the next thing, inviting attention. That attention allows supporting connections. Energy flows in and from the connecting and conversing, and automatically seeks ground in some tangible (real) action or product. And those actions and products, however large or small, become the foundation for deeper rest, relaxation and opening.

I find it easiest to start with heart and opening, but I suppose we can start anywhere, as long as we’re willing to be carried through all four seasons or dimensions of practice. If I can’t relax my heart, I can go back to past results, or back further, noticing whatever supporting connections I might have available. But more and more, it is the physical sensations of heart that tell me most clearly where I am, when is right, and what to do.

I’ll be gone on retreat for the next couple of weeks, resting in practice. Find me again here in March, or join us in April!

Four into One

wendy farmer-oneil mentioned InvitingOrganization and the Four Practices, yesterday on the phone, and wondered if we shouldn’t name a fifth practice and dimension, a center space that is some sort of stillness.

my answer… yes. and, but, not like that.

i’ve suggested four seasons, quadrants, practices. and yes, there is stillness, reflection, settling in the first one, opening heart. that requires that heart rest in something, like pelvis and legs, the support and ground achieved in the third and fourth practices. but this stillness is not the thing she was really asking about, i think. it’s not a peer to the other four, not a separate center.

it is bigger. i think it is their union. their all all-at-once-ness without loss of distinction. in terms of strategic questions, it recalls the highest level question is “how light is your organization?” at that level everything runs together, and light is love, clear, fast and power.

so yes there is a center, and a perimeter, and it is also the ground that the whole map is drawn on, the page or the screen. and finally, remember that each of the quadrants can be cut into those same four quadrants, a fractal slide into a space that refuses to be theorized, where we can only just do it. in this fractal view, four quadrants inside of each of the quadrants, we see the all-at-onceness is fully present in each of the four.

there is no fifth season, no new peer to the four, and there is always a center, an edge, a ground and a space that is always present, in each of them in time, and all of them taken together, which is impossible to name. it’s not a fifth or separate practice, but the gift of all practice, then thing that emerges in experience when we do the other four.

and this is the easy, all-at-onceness, all-together, everything works out quality, sometimes called ‘community’ or ‘high learning’ or ‘flow’ or ‘fun’ or ‘spirit’ that emerges when we practice these things in the form of open space technology.

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.

The Four Practices… Settling Nicely

Still, yes still, rolling around with this notion of the Four Practicesof OpenSpaceTech. Finally occured to me today that these map perfectly to the four D’s of Appreciative Inquiry. This came as no surprise to my partner in crime here, Chris Corrigan, but it did make me wonder if teaching these practices still constitutes teaching OpenSpace.

Tonight, I’m settling toward naming these four practices as… Welcoming, Inviting, Organizing, and Reporting. These labels link solidly back to the basics of Opening Space and still reach out and link easily to other practices like AI. There’s a nice symmetry and balance to them as well.

And, even as I say this, I’m really liking the way these same practices have shown up in the four practices that make up my own professional practice, as I’d posted it earlier this year in the MichaelHermanAssociates homepage: Big Picture, Next Steps, Best Ever, and How To…

Feeling good about how these are settling and yet still staying open and flexible.

Focusing on Value

The market analyses I’m reading these days all recommend value investing, focusing on fundamentals and not getting carried away with the glitz and glitter of high-priced buzz stocks, or trying to ride the tide of the broad market which seems more likely to trend down before it trends up.

In my own consulting practice, I’ve been thinking about the Value of my own work, the fees I charge, and the situations I am “selling” into or being asked to invest myself in. Jill and I had an excellent dinner with John Cottrell this week, talking about the selling process and proper valuing of the work we do.

Then this came through from my old buddy Zelle Nelson, as follow-up to the conversations we had a couple weeks ago while he was visiting London…

�How much are your notebooks?�

�How much do you want to pay?�

�How much do you charge?�

�I don�t do it that way.�

Marea cocks her head. �What�s that mean?�

�You need to decide why you want it. That way it will have more value to you � and then whatever you decide to give me for it, it will have more value to me as well.�

�You support yourself this way?�

Read more… from Kate Wenner’s Dancing with Einstein. This is more elegant, but essentially not so different from how I’ve been selling my work for some years now. Focusing afresh on value and thinking that the last of the four practices might be called just that — valuing. This seems consistent with the making, sustaining, realizing, appreciating, acknowledging and rewarding dimensions of that fourth practice of open space.

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.

Now That’s Practice!

I want to come back and say more about these four practices for embodying Open Space as leaders and organizations… opening/willingness, inviting/goodness, hosting/support, and grounding/sustaining.

In the meantime, my sister the yogi sent this picture of herself today. She’s about 7.5 months pregnant. Could there be any better picture of these four practices?

Four Practices

chris corrigan sent me his notes from his latest incarnation of ouropen space technology training and practice workshop. i’ve been noodling on it as i cook lunches and scrub pots at the center these last couple of days. i’ve pushed his four around a bit and we’ve yet to duke it out over the details. here’s a first attempt at my own version, which maps back to my early work on InvitingOrganization

1. practice of opening. it’s about willingness. willingness to see, to know, to open. it’s personal and reflective, but can be felt physically in body and charted in organizations.

2. practice of inviting. it’s about goodness. finding benefits TO others, as in what’s in it for them, and also benefits IN others, as in recognizing what they can add to the process of achieving what is desired personally in the first practice. it makes that first practice social, collective, organizational, and cultural, but also documented in invitation emails, letters, posters.

3. practice of holding. it’s about supporting movement and change. providing space and time, structures that support without making decisions for people, giving attention, carrying in awareness or carrying forward, holding in one’s heart or home or conference room. it creates room for others to expand, explore, experiment… to bring new things out in the world. it is simultaneously logistical, mental, and emotional.

4. practice of practicing. it’s about sustaining, returning, realizing, and making real. this is action, taking a stand, making progress, going somewhere, documenting results. this implies the continuation and diffusion of the above. standing ground, staying the course, seeing things through. it is the personal and individual (I, me, my) pursuit of the good that WE invite, in the space that WE provide. It can look simply mechanical and become deeply meditative, as we go round again, starting with Opening. (note… this might also be called the practice of “participating,” perhaps “making,” or simply “doing” or “changing.” stay tuned.

What’s really gorgeous about this is that in addition to mapping and guiding the practice of Open Space Tech as potentially very large group intervention in organizations, it also scales all the way back down into a simple, powerful one-on-one personal coaching model. Alternatively, it’s a leadership coaching model that can scale up to open, invite, hold and change the whole organization. what’s more, we can teach it in our usual two days, or serve it up as a brown bag lunch session.