Opening Small Spaces

ralphsc ralphsc at
Tue Dec 15 01:08:43 PST 1998

Howdy, all

Thanks to the 9-10 people who have to date responded so generously to my request for advice about conducting OS on a beach.  Everybody was quite helpful, actually, except for Harrison, who suggested I use beachbums to hold up the signs.  Beachbums ­ would that be you, H?

To answer questions from several of you, the event is being held on the beach for the opening and closing circles ­ and only whatever else people choose, of course.  There are indoor break-out spaces, but none is large enough to hold the whole group of 110, except in emergencies (like rain).  I'd anticipated the sound issues (wind, surf, etc.) with the client and we'll have a good boom system of some sort.  It's a one-day event aimed at giving people a chance to talk with each other in a new way.  There are some good issues on the table (so to speak), and I have told them clearly the difference in the result they'll get with one-day versus two or more.  They made their choice.  I've done two previous two-day events with this organization, and the exec in question, having been in one of those, cannot see using the one-day she has available in any other way.  So we'll all learn things together.

On the topic of shorter events, I have a mixed record.  I wished somebody had warned me about demonstrations earlier in my career.  I did it once and it was a disaster.  I think I set up three 20-minute sessions for an hour or something stupid like that.  Yuck. Never again.  But another time, a client wanted to see how I do OS (I think they were sort of testing me), so I asked their group of 20 execs to sit in a circle, and I just did the opening.  That worked very well, and they had me do the whole deal on another occasion.

I once did a whole series of four-hour events for a health care system.  They wanted some community input in various towns where they had hospitals.  I did a 30-minute opening, a 30-minute closing, and set up three one-hour slots in between.  Everybody loved it, and the client got very useful info (which is all I basically told them they'd get) for use in their overall strategic planning effort.  I consider the whole experience very successful.

On several other gigs, I have done an afternoon of OS followed by its continuation the following morning.  Sort of noon to noon.  This feels more like 24 hours of open space than eight.  You get to work in an evening news and a morning announcements and all kinds of good stuff.  Then there was the group that stole my bells and left me a ransom note, but that's another story.

And I absolutely prefer 2 1/2 days any time I can do it.  But that's just me, and I'm not the client.  I never took the formal OS training, I think because I started doing this before Harrison started doing such workshops, and I just kept going.  And experimenting.  If ever there was a technique that has elasticity built right into it, it's open space.  Dig it.

Ralph Copleman

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