Open Space w/small groups

Larry Peterson lpasoc at
Thu May 28 14:47:01 PDT 1998

I just led an Open Space with 13 Board members of an organization. One day
in Open Space created the conditions for them to choose to actively govern
the organization. I have also led such events from 3hrs to 2 days with
senior teams of 6-12. The dynamics are different sometimes. In one
situation, stayed together for much of the conversation, but just shifted
leadership according to who had a passion for the topic. Others have split
into smaller groups after the initial together session. Some have gone to
smaller groups right from the start. It depends on where the team or group
is in its own journey.



>From  Fri May 29 11:11:13 1998
Message-Id: <FRI.29.MAY.1998.111113.0000.>
Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 11:11:13 +0000
Reply-To: kloth at
From: Chris Kloth <kloth at>
Organization: ChangeWorks
Subject: Open Space with small groups
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This question affords me an opportunity to take the risk of violating
what I perceive as an OSI norm that I am uncomfortable with: that we
often speak as if Open Space is both a method for meeting that produces
profound results in systems and that it  "IS"  the essence of a better
way of life in organizations, communities and other inerdependent
groups.  While I believe deeply that it provides insight into and a
metaphor for a way of being together.  I do not believe it  IS  "the

Without getting into the deeper philosophical issues (which I am
currently writing an article about and which I intend to post for
feedback on when it is more worked out) I believe the first layer deeper
than open space is the nature of dialogue or dialogic communication.

What this has to do with Open Space in Small Groups in the short term
and in the long term (and what I think is implicit in Grover's & Larry's
responses) is creating the conditions for effective dialogue.  I believe
that the work we do in the first moments of an Open Space meeting, which
I sometimes think of as an invocation, creates the conditions for
dialogue at the same time that it creates the form.  I believe a few
other forms are also accomplish similar results and that we need to
learn when to use other options.  As much as I love open space and
believe it is the most fexible of the forms I use in my practice I am
reminded of the warning that when all you have is a hammer then
everything is a nail!

I believe that keeping the principles of open space in mind while
working with a small group will create the conditions for the right work
to be done by the right people.  Do we need to say it IS open space that
we are using or creating reminds me of the conversations I have with
rabbis about whether or not Reform, Conservative or Reform Jews are all
Jews or some are "better" than others.  You say TO-MA-TO, I say
TO-MAH-TO. Chris Kloth

>From  Thu Jun 11 16:17:08 1998
Message-Id: <THU.11.JUN.1998.161708.0500.>
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1998 16:17:08 -0500
Reply-To: mherman at
From: Michael Herman <mherman at>
Organization: Michael Herman Associates
Subject: Re: Concluding Open Space
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hello everyone,

just catching up with e-things after being gone...

special thanks to diane for taking action on our conversations re:
converging and for reporting it...i'd add a couple of little details by
way of question, suggestion, concern....

1.  the notion of priority setting and the question you used to open the
last day seems to have the potential to allow an escape into planning
mode and out of passion+responsibility mode...what do think of the more
blunt question..."what are you going to do now?" or "what can you do
now?"...still intending that these individual actions would be lead to
the emergence of priorities?

2.  recently was present for a dots-voting session...i questioned the
strength of the passion+responsibility link in this particular session i
was in and thought the link could be tightened by asking folks to take
dots in proportion to the amount of time they expected to invest in
doing the actions being voted on....for example, at my meeting (about 30
volunteer leaders at my church) i would have suggested taking one voting
dot for every hour per week a person expected to work on these projects
over the next six months.

as you can see, my concern is to get the most honest view on day three
of what can really happen going forward, what people are really ready to
do and not just what would be nice...that said, i also really like the
idea of going through the opening process again, to demonstrate that the
opening/questioning process is an everyday working thing, not just an
annual planning thing.

thanks again,

michael herman

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