The Purpose Of Open Space
The Open Space (OS) collaborative method enables an unlimited number of people to meet, discuss issues of heartfelt concern, pool their knowledge and, where appropriate, agree action steps.
What is Open Space?
Open Space is a method for organising a self-managed meeting or conference where participants create their own programme of work sessions. In simultaneous sessions people discuss their concerns, explore issues and opportunities and find new ways forward. An Open Space event brings people together, often in large numbers and representing great diversity, to contribute their views, share their ideas and develop plans for creative and collaborative action.
The Open Space approach is particularly effective when used to resolve complex or conflict-ridden issues in a short period of time, or when innovation and ownership are the desired outcomes. A prerequisite is that the focal issue or theme must be of genuine interest to all involved. The group can be of any size and can take place over half a day.
Participation in an Open Space event should be voluntary whenever possible. Although OS is generally classified as a meeting management method, it has the potential to form the basis of a new approach to organisation. The principles and practices of OS can be used to facilitate self-organisation in the workplace or the community.
- Concrete action plans are specified and committed to
- People’s genuine concerns are identified
- Creative and relevant ideas are developed
- New behaviours are practised and new norms established
- Productive working relationships are created
- Cross-functional communication links are initiated
- Ongoing self-managed groups come into being
- People’s hearts and minds are fully engaged in organisational goals
- Participants’ sense of community and contribution to organisational thinking
- Participants feeling valued for input and engagement
- New contacts and commitment established
- New solutions to old problems
- An additional process can be run after the Open Space event to establish ongoing action teams.
When to use it
- To explore issues and opportunities
- To promote discussion and decision making
- To develop plans for creative and collaborative action that people really own
- To create strong community spirit, particularly when there are high levels of complexity, diversity and conflict or where the workforce is fragmented and isolated/disparate by virtue of geography or being non-office-based
Principles underpinning open space
- Open Space runs on passion, responsibility and appropriate structure and control
- Participants self-manage the agenda, discussion and outcomes
- Whoever comes is the right group (participation is voluntary)
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen (Let go of your expectations)
- When it’s over, it’s over (If there’s no more to say, move on)
- If you find yourself in a situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, it is your responsibility to use ‘The Law of Two Feet’ to go elsewhere