Blue Leaf Open Space Guide

Open Space Cartoons


Open Space is an exciting way of working as the ‘method’ fosters co-ownership and co-creativity of the participants. I have applied this method several times and still I remain intensely curious of what comes out. Below are my Golden Rules, there is also a link to founding father Howard Owen for a more elaborate exploration of the Open Space methodology.

I have also been part of sessions in which the Open Space name is used to run a workshop type session that is time bound, the topics are set, the groups are precast and the output is defined.  I have no objection against such a focus, it can be what is asked for following a traditional workshop programme. Often if such instructions or programming is presented I will follow one of the Golden Rules of Open Space by voting with my feet and I will withdraw out of the session. For all those facilitating a session or programme and you decide to go for an Open Space approach, Go for it! Make sure you have used co-generation before and enjoy the results. Follow Bruce Britton:”if in doubt, trust the process!”

Golden Rules

  1. The Law of two feet… participate where your passion and interests are.
  2. Whoever comes is the right person… it is about who is there (and not who should or should have been there..) and it is the quality of interaction that determines the outcome of the session.
  3. What happens, is the only flow of events, that could have happened… so Go For It! Be open to surprise and enjoy your participants. Especially for those who want to control outcomes and manipulate discussions with the best of intentions… accept events as they unfold.
  4. When a conversation starts, it has started! Conversations have the inherent quality of starting at the right moment and will draw people in as needed.
  5. When it is over, it is over!
  6. Besides the role of participant, that hopefully the majority of people present will adopt, there are a variety of special roles:
  • Butterflies, they flutter from group to group and transfer words, meaning, focus and insights to other groups working on progress;
  • Bumble bees, cross over and infuse others;
  • Corridor dwellers: take a time off and hibernate in the corridor for longer or shorter periods of time, if they become to gregarious then they appear to have found the subject of conversation and they should reenter the Open Space.
  • Space-invaders, often late comers who jump is as if they were from another planet and they will try to take over or claim to speak on behalf of…. space invaders are best dealt with by asking them to embark on the next leg of their space journey, this might even require a little assistance.

7. Start in a circle and End in a circle! Use the talking stick to complete the session!

8. The Launch and kick off of an Open Space session are important occasions, make sure you relaxed and comfortable! so that you set the focus well and paint the time and process horizon well.

9. Explain the basic rules and put the rules up on the wall for all to see and adhere to!

10. The kick off starts by collecting subjects, emphasizing that we are all experts and interested in the matter at hand. Anybody who proposes a subject or issue is the initial owner. If you no longer perceive yourself as such, make sure that you announce this and identify or suggest a new owner.

Make sure that you are well prepared by being familiar with the rules and roles. By having your logistics in place and that you have made sound arrangements for the write ups and reporting. If necessary decide on the format before hand and include this in the reporting instructions.

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