Opening Small Spaces

Larry Peterson lpasoc at
Tue Dec 15 14:14:00 PST 1998

I continue to experiment with opening small spaces, sometimes in the context
of other processes. I have seen some remarkable breakthroughs, some good
discussions and a couple of fizzles. I do think it relates to the nature of
the group and the task at hand (as it always does). It is a risk, but so is
a 2.5 day event. In 2.5 days people ususally have enough time to work things
out--but not always.

I included a four hour open space in a six hour planning process recently
and it was extremely successful---clients words. It was a group of 15
people. The first two hours were to set context and discuss strategic
assumptions for an Opthamology Department under siege. The Open Space was
1/2 hr opening, two 45 minute start times, 1/2 hour next steps and 1/2 hour
closing. They created five vision elements for the future of the department
with will enthusiasm--they were pumped. At a 3 month follow-up, they had
made real progress on all five possible strategic directions and we reviewed
and set further priorities for action in a couple of hours.

I tried to negotiate more time--being doctors they said no. It was drop the
contract or do what I could.  Being doctors they were used to workingin 45
minute time frames. The task was clear, the size was small, the context was
set--and new energy and idea breakthrough happened.


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