Podcast: When Agile Meets Open Space


Thanks to Pilar Orti, in London, for capturing in a recent podcast some of the fun we had in the Distributed Agile Teamwork sessions, in the Audacious Salon track, at the Agile2016 Conference, and previously in the Virtual Open Space on Open Space (VOSONOS) I convened last year.

When Mark Kilby, Agile Coach and Agile community leader in Florida/Orlando, joined VOSONOS last year, we discovered we’d been together at the Agile/XP Universe conference back in 2002, where I facilitated an Open Space track and he first learned about OS.

This year’s Distributed Agile Teamwork sessions invited participants into a conversation about the future of working virtually. That conversation continues at VirtualTeamTalk.slack.com. Join us!

Thanks to Mark and Pilar for their invitations to play together!

inviting business

euan semple muses today about what to call our new way(s) of doing social-media-powered business. He suggests the term “literate business.” my response:

my dad used to work in public relations for ford motor company. along the way he wrote things like the marker at henry ford’s birthplace and materials that went out to every ford shareholder, sometimes speeches, too, i think. when i was learning to write in grade school, he told me “the last thing you do when you write, is write.” think, feel, sense… sort… write.

literate doesn’t fit for me. i always go back to the dictionary on these things, to have a look at the old shape of these things. literate: scholarly, learned. but what you’ve actually described seems more reflective than literate. then i wondered about articulated, annotated, and examined. the unexamined business is not worth…?

and then i come back to the stuff i started working on 10+ years ago, this story of “inviting organization.” perhaps what you’re talking about is “inviting business.” (see InvitingOrganizationEmerges for the full story.) in essence, these new tools and practices you’re talking about are for actively inviting new business, and simultaneously require the thinking, feeling, sensing, and reflecting that must inform our actually being inviting, connecting people.

for me, “inviting business” captures all of the inner, subjective, and aspirational AND all of the outer, objective, and technically practical (practice-able) dimensions of personal practice, collaborative work, and business organization today.

neighborhood news?

after i wrote yesterday about network and neighborhood, sally duros shared this this in the nytimes about the emergence of neighborhood news.

makes me think that someday we’ll all be tweeting (maybe slightly expanded from 140 characters?) about what is happening, more than what is happening to us as individuals. all tweets will coded by location, so at anytime, from wherever you are, you can pull in a stream of tweets coded for some radius of your own choosing. a way to listen to the neighborhood, and report into it, from wherever you are.

imagine the reports from a parade or street fair, from a place where someone is running from police, or a school yard on recess. okay, now imagine the kids drop their blackberries and go run and jump and swing.

from the nytimes about hyperlocal news…

If your local newspaper shuts down, what will take the place of its coverage? Perhaps a package of information about your neighborhood, or even your block, assembled by a computer.

A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyperlocal news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.

The sites, like EveryBlock, Outside.in, Placeblogger and Patch, collect links to articles and blogs and often supplement them with data from local governments and other sources. They might let a visitor know about an arrest a block away, the sale of a home down the street and reviews of nearby restaurants.

networking neighborhood

<hmmm …> this article in the economist touches on some of what i’ve been thinking about the social networking tools. that despite the wide online connecting, we’re still basically limited by brain. or at least habits of brain-as-brains-currently-are.

the article distinguishes between a broadcast network (100s or even 1000s), a dunbar-sized network (about 150), and a more intimate social core (i’ll say loosely, 5-15). it talks about average numbers, but there will, of course, be differences between individuals — but also within individuals. i picture the variation within my individual network as a flutter in the boundary between the core, the dunbar, broadcast groups. if flutter is the right word for the fluctuation in the opening of my social aperture, then maybe float might be the way to describe the shifting my social aim. that is, as my aim changes, from project to project, the whole aperture pans the landscape of people i know. do i change my focus or emphasize the fluttering on “one side” of my circle, changing subjects in mid-conversation with neighbors who might also be connected to my work.

if maintaining a social core takes energy and attention, takes grooming, then what if i have several very different projects. if my core people in each of those aims don’t overlap, does my work in each suffer for lack of a full core? or do i get overtaxed by staying close and current with several sets of core folks? i suppose this is where hierarchy is born. i need a full core to accomplish things on most projects, but i’m split between projects. in those projects where i’m short core support, maybe i show up just enough to support somebody who’s more present, more connected in that realm, more often, leveraging my limited connections into another’s deeper connections. mostly i go along, vote the way he or she does, and occasionally get the support i need for something.

greater ease and effectiveness, simultaneously, and happiness too, would seem to rely on a stronger core, either by choosing people who are closer with more similar aims, or by gathering a very disparate group that is able to understand the essence of the challenge as similar across many diverse projects and places. we specialize/localize or generalize/globalize.

now, what if distance core is not as strong as when we can share food and drink and all kinds of other physical connectings and alignings? seems as longs as we are bodies, local is going to have some major advantages. what does generalize/locally or specialize/globally mean? is there a social network platform that supports this? seems that it’s possible, but not necessarily directly supported, or at least distinctly supported by facebook, twitter and the like.

i think what feels like strongest support, and the group i’ve been part of that has been most interesting, helpful and alive, is a small (7-10) group of people, with diverse aims, in terms of projects and places, but a common or super aim, something ranking up there with love, compassion, joy and common scope, in that we were wishing and working on these things to blossom on a similarly large scale, even as we all were local enough to gather in the same room with some dependable regularity. many individual aims, shared vision/language, large spanning/spilling scale, local gathering.

local gathering and diversity of aims happens naturally, just look around the neighborhood. but less likely to find local in an online neighborhood. unless neighborhood expands toward global, in which case body starts to get confused, as perception still seems to happen very locally. but the neighborhood might lack a larger mission, a higher purpose, and the energy of a rising dunbar- or broadcast-sized network tide. but but but.

how to find the great waves in a neighborhood, make local connections in facebook, change the world in a small group, or invite far-flung activists to a monthly potluck dinner? can we grow facebook legs and arms, twitter hands and feet, using distance tools to take local steps into embrace? does broadcasting scale heighten elevate otherwise small local purpose? where does the great heart rest down into soft earth? forgot your password? </hmmm …>

opening space for appreciative inquiry — and peace — in nepal and its government

romy shovelton emailed today, from her farm in wales, asking about mixing open space and appreciative inquiry. it turns out i have a pretty good story of such mixing, from grassroots to new national government, that i’d been meaning to update here.

on my third visit to nepal, i helped convene and facilitate a third open space event there, this one a first national summit for peaceful development. the first two meetings were a classroom presentation/demonstration of open space technology, for about 20 students and faculty at kathmandu college. the second was a city-wide event, organized on the success and with the skills gained in the first session, looking at the 20-year future of kathmandu.

at this second event, i made a point of having side conversations with as many of the 40 participants as i could, suggesting that we might do 4 days the following year, two days of open space, followed by two days of ost training. this was a model we’d used elsewhere and i thought it could give the depth of experience needed to accomplish the things that were being discussed for the next 20 years in kathmandu.

when i contacted my colleagues about returning for a third visit, they began organizing the event we’d discussed the previous year, with some important changes. it was to be four days, but it would be national in scope. it would be held in open space, but it would be based also on AI principles and the 4-D process. it would include training, as well, on both ost and ai.

i never would have believed it was possible, but my nepali colleagues never thought otherwise. so we did four one-day open space events, one on each of the four D’s, the first one shortened by opening speeches, the last one shortened by a grand closing ceremony that included gifts and acknowledgements and official thank yous in addition to the usual comments in a circle. the middle days opened with ost training observations and closed with evening sessions on how to do AI. we also started a blog that they used for several years.

since then they have had second, third and fourth national summits, sometimes in open space, sometimes with appreciative inquiry facilitated by ai originator, david cooperrider.

along the way, in the midst of the sometimes violent maoist resistance, a 6000(?)-year old landmark gate was destroyed in an explosion that also destroyed part of one of the organizers’ homes. the village where this happened was devastated by the loss, but this organizer emailed me almost immediately, saying that they were planning an open space to talk about rebuilding gate. i don’t know if that event ever formally happened, but having it there as a possibility in such a moment is surely worth something.

and now, after a fifth summit event just held in january, this one also in open space, and run totally on their own, without outside facilitators or consultants, they are planning a sixth national summit — this one for the 601 members of the soon-to-be-elected “constituent assembly” that is the budding solution to more than a decade of political, sometimes armed, in-fighting, and the governmental structure that will replace the ages-old nepali monarchy. the sixth summit will seek to infuse the new government with open space and appreciative inquiry.

No Child Left INSIDE: Weblog Working

Last Fall, we did a one-day summit event in Open Space to help establish a central Ohio contribution to the national Leave No Child INSIDE movement. Nice to see them growing the KidsAndNature weblog we started with the conference notes. This is my current favorite example of how to keep the Spirit of an Open Space meeting alive and working.

Recognizing that creating a universally meaningful logo graphic for such a diverse group would be difficult, we opted for a flicker badge of four photos, pulled from a kids and nature tag at flicker. This means that the logo actually shows what they mean by kids and nature. It’s able to be displayed by any member organization, the main criteria for membership being that you’re helping to spread the word, or really the vision, embedded in the photo badge. And anyone with great pictures of kids and nature can add them to the tag group, and thus add their view of kids and nature to the emblem and the sites of every member.

The Open Space that I Am

Alison Murdoch sent word yesterday of the upcoming Essential Education conference in California, October 2006. The announcement came with an invitation to volunteers for website maintenance. Later in the day, Julie Henderson asked about adding some photos to the Zapchen Somatics site. I said yes, both times, and then got back to work on updating the Imagine Chicago site for Bliss Browne. All of this after I talked with Rebecca Blazer and Marissa Strassel, walking them through the new weblog we are starting for the Chicago Conservation Corps. Late last night, I posted a note from Roq Gareau into the writing notebook, not yet public, where Chris Corrigan and I are developing our book on Inviting Leadership.

Depending on how you count them, I am working on eight to ten different websites, many but not all of them weblogs. Today, I can see them clearly as working conversations and overlapping groups of colleagues. It’s easy to imagine the lot of them as so many flipcharts and breakout groups scattered around a big meeting room. Some of them are sites of active documentation. Some of them don’t get much writing but do mark and hold a space for our meeting. A few of them have side conversations going on, a listserve or or sub-site, nearby. In all cases, I care about about the issues: education, philanthropy, community, environment, food, well-being — and the opportunities to connect these conversations with each other. It strengthens me to see that I am indeed walking my talk… noticing, inviting, documenting, and doing. Open Space Practice and Open Space World.

Between clicks on all of these websites yesterday, I got an urgent email from a friend and coaching client. “On my way to an open space client meeting. Need to talk, if you can.” It turns out that he’s been doing quite a lot of work in Open Space, and he mentions something about using it in more and more different places, and discovering that “it” can work in all of them. The way he said “it” really caught me and I see: “it” is “me”. Open Space isn’t an abstract or academic process. It’s personal. It’s me appreciating, inviting, supporting, and making good on the issues and opportunities that matter to me. We say that Open Space can work in so many different situations, and now I see that the real limit or caveat, the qualification that could be added is this: Open Space can work anywhere, on any issue, and with any people that I/you/we can genuinely appreciate. In other words, IF you can find some good in the situation, there is always some way to invite, support and make more of it.

It’s the Conversation…

Shel Israel this morning, talking about business blogging at MeshForum:

Blogging’s not the revolution — the conversation is the revolution.

I’d say the same about Open Space Technology — and that’s why the two go so well together. Have a meeting that is many meetings at once. Blog all the notes and plans. Comment on the progress. Blog the milestones. Repeat until full resolution, of everything.

This morning is my first experience with trying to listen to conference presentations, following thoughts that pop up for me, and blogging highlights all at once. Think I’m getting a brain cramp!

Tip of the morning: Robert Scoble uses newsgator.com. I setup a free test account and in the first 10 minutes it looks way better than bloglines. Think I’m sold.

Make Your Net Work

Last call to register for next week’s MeshForum in San Francisco. It’s all about working together. Join us if you can! Sunday and Monday are packed with speakers from technology, community, business and academic views of networks. On Tuesday, I’ll facilitate a day of Open Space to make more of the connections that make our nets work.

BrainJam in New Orleans

Been talking with Chris Heuer about the Open Space dimension of this…

BrainJams New Orleans – Big Announcement!

On Thursday May 4th we are going to bring the best of Web 2.0 to the New Orleans small business community in what could be one of the biggest Unconferences of the year. This will be a day of conversation, peer to peer learning, and developing a better understanding of how the technology community can serve the needs of this vitally important city as it comes back from the trajedy that was Katrina. Our goal is to help small businesses understand how they can make the most of blogs, social networks, tagging, wikis and other collaboration tools – but I have a feeling that much more will come of this. More…

I’m impressed with the work Chris is doing on the ground, but also the depth or background of his work, as he’s just back from an Art of Hosting workshop, working on these sorts of questions

  • When have I truly lived my passion and what in particular was powerful about this?
  • What do I now sense is the next level of my passion and practice?
  • If this is the next level of my passion and practice, what could stop or come in the way of this?
  • What is the burning question that will help me step more fully into the fire of my hosting?

This marriage of depth and action, internal and external, personal and social, seems essential now, in all of our work.

Recent Changes Camp in Portland, OR

We’re making final preparations and packing bags this week for RecentChangesCamp in Portland at the end of this week. The conference, with a sub-theme of Building Communities Worth Having, seeks to connect tech tools like wiki and community organizing activists/activities. We’re running it in Open Space and posting our proceedings here. There’s still time to register (it’s a free, community event!) if you’d like to join us.

I’ll be running up to Seattle to visit with a number of friends and colleagues there, next week. Might be light blogging for the next couple weeks.

Food Security Summit

Reporting today from Day Two of the Rockford and Four Rivers Regional Food Security Summit, the latest in a line of events that dates back to the original summit that was convened in Open Space by the Chicago Community Trust in November, 2001.

More than 60 people, ordinary citizens that is, have gathered here at Rockford College, raised and discussed more than 30 issues, including land use, farming and gardening, food pantries, organics, community education, marketing, school lunches, fair trade, among many others.

We are using a weblog to post all of the proceedings and will be experimenting with that as a platform for sustained community action. There’s a lot of life in this circle. Maybe it’s all the organic food. Whatever the explanation, meetings like this give me hope for the future.

Blogging Me Away

Blogs are about being changed, more than changing others.

Bonk. This Johnnie Moore line really smacked me. Still reverberating in mind, a week after I read it here. And the whole notion of blogging for the disruption of it, for the internal and indirect effects it has, as illustrated by Hugh Macleod in the case of doubling of sales for Stormhoek wine.

Fascinating to consider what we’re disrupting in the Open Space practice community with the blogging we’re doing at OpenSpaceWorld.ORG. Perhaps the notion of who really is the open space practice community anyway!

Challenging in my own practice, two… disrupting myself and what I have come to think my business is all about. Consultant, facilitator, teacher, manager, practitioner, coach, writer, partner… running together in new ways these days.

Business Blogging in the News

The Puget Sound Business Journal (August, 2005) makes a good introduction and business case for business blogging:

The Boeing Co.’s Randy Baseler writes a Web log called Randy’s Journal, which gives the aerospace firm’s view of the world. When officials at Microsoft Corp. last took count, some 1,500 employees were blogging about some aspect of the Redmond software giant.

In June, the national firm Pearson Educational Measurement launched TrueScores, a blog about educational testing, after the company’s Auburn, Wash.-based Marketing Vice President Frank Catalano suggested it would be a good way for its testing experts to share their knowledge.

Smaller businesses are getting into the blogging act, too. Mac Cutchins, chief executive officer of Bellevue-based Intek Integration Technologies Inc., for instance, plans to add a blog to the warehouse software maker’s Web site in a few months.

more, in printable format…

Have a del.icio.us New Year?

Thanks to Euan for pointing out Slacker Manager‘s useful list of Several Habits of Wildly Successful del.icio.us Users. These might be just the tips I need to get over that initiation hurdle and make 2006 a del.icio.us year.

It’s encouraging to see this social bookmarking (sharing, sorting, tagging and tracking of links) tool being acquired by Yahoo. Would be even more encouraging if they’d make an easy way import my existing bookmarks.

Leadership Blogging

I wrote a few days ago about the challenge of distinguishing between a leader’s desire for control and what might be a deeper desire, on the part of true partners and teachers, the desire to share and extend what we know about the work. So how to does a leader do that?

How about a Leadership Blog? Not the kind where the CEO blogs for the customers, or internally to pep up productivity. In a Leadership Blog, everybody posts. Everybody leads. A group blog, for issues and opportunities for moving a given project or initiative forward. Everybody is invited, encouraged, required to take responsibility for the issues that matter to them. The chief can comment, or not, as he or she chooses. But he or she does get to choose. Everybody gets to choose. Everybody leads.

What I’m suggesting (and testing now for myself) is a blog-based version of OpenSpaceTech. Anybody can post an issue. Anybody can attend the “breakout session” by reading and posting comments. I’ve made four categories: Open Issue (the default), Closed Issue, Announcements, and Technical Notes.

Everything that needs doing can be posted as an Open item. When it’s resolved, it can be Closed. In the meantime, meetings and conference calls can be announced. Research, observations, technical specs and other notes can be recorded.

Anybody else blogging like this? How does it work? What have you learned? I think this does much to address the challenges of leadership awareness, experience, sharing and control.

Open Space IS Competitive Advantage

Searching, searching, searching… everybody’s searching for competitive advantage. And now Google’s found it. Of course. And the top-ranked factor? Well, it sure sounds like Open Space to me!

At google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood how to manage the new breed of ‘knowledge workers.’ After all, Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that smart businesses will “strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers’ way.” Those that succeed will attract the best performers, securing “the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years.”

MSNBC via Euan Semple, recognized recently as “info professional of the year” for the the cool stuff he’s doing at the BBC. Props and thanks, Euan!

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