Discussions on open space

Michelle Cooper coopgrp at interlynx.net
Sun May 3 13:15:03 PDT 1998

Hello all:

I have been a voyeur on the list serve for a few months now but now have a
few remarks to contribute to the discussions.  Birgitt has recently
introduced me as the friend who did not mind giving her a gift that had a
missing purity bead.  What are friends for anyway!!!

It has taken me some time to process all of the rich discussion that  has
occurred about Open Space and "Modified Open Space".  While I am not new to
open space (I took the training in 1995), I consider myself a novice
practitioner.  For the past few years in my role as a senior manager in a
community home health care organization, I had the opportunity to open
small spaces with success, but have not been able to fully utilize the
process in a way that I think could have helped the organization.  However,
I have now launched my career in a new direction as a consultant with
health care systems being my area of expertise.  So...I am anxious to use
the process well.  Part of doing this well is, as Viv described very aptly,
 is knowing the fundamental principles well.

Harrison has developed and shared with us what I will call his grand
theory.  When I was introduced to Open Space at the training, it resonated
with something in my being.  It was congruent with all that I believed
about organization, but had not found a way to articulate.  However, what
we have is a theory and theories do indeed need to be tested.  One of the
barriers to accepting OST that I have found in my academic and practice
community of "scientists" (many of whom believe that if has not been
subject to randomized controlled trials, it is nothing) is the lack of
testing.  I relate this to General Systems theory.  Von Bertalnffy
described general systems theory in the 50's and it was a breakthrough.  It
has been tested and many new theories have evolved based on the
understanding and learning through testing of this theory.  It is also
clear that the new theories have their foundation in General Systems the

I think that OST is a breakthrough in theory too.  It takes us away form
the linear or two dimensional models into three dimensional models. I see
what many persons are doing in applying Open Space in new and different
ways is testing the theory.  My concern is that the application of this
"testing" is not done thoughtfully nor do the practitioners of OST get to
benefit from the learning that has arisen from this testing.  The
discussion that I have seen on the Listserve the past few weeks is a
starting place.    However, I believe that we need to understand more
deeply what exactly it is about the concepts of OST that often enables the
facilitator and group to transcend all of the usual barriers to group
process to make OST the success that it usually is.  If you are testing the
concepts, lets be clear about it and share it on the web site.  If there
are any PhD's out there who are looking for topics on organizational
behavior, this is a great area to study.  I f you have studied OST, please
share your work k with us.  We need to have the results communicated back
to the OS community so that we can inform our practice and promote the
acceptance of OS as more than the "OD flavor of the moment" that people may
use or misuse as they see fit.

I have learned much and your discussion as provoked much thought for me.
 Thanks for the opportunity to contribute my thoughts.

Michelle Cooper
The Cooper Group Consultants

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