OSONOS-my struggles,my viewpoint

Rod Douglas success at onthenet.com.au
Thu Nov 26 22:39:17 PST 1998


I honour your courage and your honesty...

Doing community is hard... I've been watching the unfolding of this list
with interest and up until now haven't really had a lot to contribute...
Reading your truthful account was a very beautiful experience for me because
I believe that authenticity is the essence of Open Space...

I use Open Space, the principles and philosophies everyday in my work... I
have absolute love and a heartful of thanks to Harrison for what he has
birth and so generously given to the world... and I choose to stay generally
outside of the community that is forming around OS...

I'm a minimalist, yet I know that as soon as people come together to use OS
on OS then the probability is a polarisation towards the beliefs that each
one of us holds as "right"... I choose to be "happy" and learn each and
everyday from my experiences and the unfolding that such beautiful space
brings to me... And some would accuse me of  being selfish, although I'm
always delighted to help anyone out who asks...

At the same time I have the marginal privilege and absolute responsibility
of being the leader of a business (and I guess a community) that is
endeavouring to bring spirit back into the business world... We have deep
levels of honesty and regular opportunities for everyone to share and
process their stuff and still it bubbles over and often the accuser will
reflect all of their anguish and limited thinking as stuff that has
something to do with me... Of course the only way through it is a big dose
of the truth laced with significant amounts of compassion...

The good news is that for all the "hard" that community is... it's worth
ever ounce of the tons of pain that I've had to endure... and it happens
slowly and over time...

The question that I would ask you is how is the OS community bounded... The
only thing that keeps our community heading in the right direction and with
commitment that pulls people together rather than pushing it apart is the
depth our culture is defined by the Vision, Mission, Purpose and Values that
we all hold...

OS is a gift to the world... Can we form a community that ensures that it
could possibly fulfil the vision and possibility that Harrison (and many
others) hold for it... Who will hold the space... or can the idea hold it's
own space... could it be that custodians are necessary, just as we must
always have a custodian of the space in an OS...

Many questions... undoubtably OS has become stronger through the fiery path
you all walked in Monterey...

Love & Light

Rod Douglas

Live long and prosper...

Succe$$ystems International Pty Ltd
'Plethora' Jardine Road
Beechmont  Qld  4211

61 7 55 333 013
61 7 55 333 012


-----Original Message-----
From: OSLIST [mailto:OSLIST at listserv.idbsu.edu]On Behalf Of Birgitt
Sent: Tuesday, 24 November 1998 8:37
To: OSLIST at listserv.idbsu.edu
Subject: OSONOS-my struggles,my viewpoint

Reporting about Open Space on Open Space is hard. Hard to put into words.
For sure, the notes below are my own experience, my own opinion, opinions
which may not be similar to those of  anyone else. Please bear that in mind
if you read further. But then again, others can speak for themselves. And
for me, the whole story does have a happy ending, garnered on the day after
OSONOS when those who are interested in developing the institutes convened
for a day.

OSONOS was a huge and at times for me, unbearable, learning experience. For
me, by the end of Sunday (we had gathered for an hour or so on the Saturday
eve, space was opened on the Sunday morning and closed on the Monday late
pm) I was ready to leave, not sure if I would come to an OSONOS again.
Please understand that I don't read what is happening only from an
intellectual level as I go through life, but rather largely from an
intuitive level. My intuition was saying that much was wrong and that it was
not good for me to be there. Quite why, I didn't know, although some of that
became clearer later.

As we gathered on the Saturday, it felt good, greeting people I had met
before at OSONOS, many  of whom I consider dear friends from around the
world. And greeting at least one person from the list who I had not met
before (hello Roy!), and others who were new. I had known all day that
Harrison would not be joining us, due to illness. Most people were informed
of this in the opening of the evening. And were then reassured that we would
all proceed, etc. So far, so good. And then I became distressed as a number
of people quickly noted how happy they were that Harrison was not present
because community could now be built, and people could develop themselves
and their own style in Open Space. It was stated that  with Harrison
present, this could not happen. This was not necessarily the prevalent
opinion, but it was stated so clearly so early in our time together. The
Harrison that I know has never gotten in the way of people developing their
own style or expression of self. He has supported so many of us in finding
our wings. It does not mean that we have to agree with him. I know I argue
hard with him, often. All part of the learning process together, including
Harrison's own learning which he also is willing to do (I admit that
sometimes this doesn't appear so because he can be very stubborn-but he is
in good company in that regard).I was angry at these people.Some people were
gentler, saying that we could build community more easily without Harrison
there and wanting to acknowledge that "whoever was there was the right
people". They may have been right. However, I thought we would be different
than other communities, building well with the "guru" present, finding ways
to include him "with us" as we continued the development of Open Space and
our own development.

Some people also expressed that they had attended only to meet Harrison and
so they were disappointed. This latter at least acknowledged Harrison's

In the morning on Sunday, the space was opened by a team of three. There
were very different styles at work, and they didn't blend well. Each person
did a good job with what he/she individually believed and practiced. There
was a lot of learning for all involved. There was acknowledgement on other
days that we were new at this, at doing this without Harrison and that we
were making mistakes. There were also others who said "there are no
Some of the dilemma was that some of us believe (myself included) that Open
Space works best kept simple and pretty pure (I am a purist). Others feel
differently. I came away from this clear that team "space holders" need to
do a lot of work beforehand to blend as a team, that people who team should
have similar views of what Open Space is, and what it is not. For me, I
think it unlikely that I will Open the  Space in team with others. It just
appears too hard. Too hard to centre oneself  fully with the group. Each
practitioner has his/her own view. The good news is that in the end the
space does open and look after itself. And it did. I am just explaining my
struggles and my learning.

My next experience and the one that really devastated me was what happened
after I posted the topic "Growing capacity as an Open Space facilitator". I
was used to OSONOS being a place for deep discussions with people who had
awareness of Open Space through their facilitation, their experience in Open
Space, or at least having read at least one of the books. Of the 60 or so
people at the event, almost half came to my session. And it soon became
clear that the majority of the group had never even read a book about Open
Space, experienced it in any way. They had just shown up to OSONOS and
wanted to use it as an inexpensive way of getting OS training. If only a few
had been amongst the group, it would have been okay. The problem was that it
turned out that of the gathering, only 16 were people who had any previous
real experience with Open Space. Which meant that we were overbalanced by
those who were there wanting to learn quickly.  The good news is that they
were interested. The bad news for me was how this showed up in this
particular session. One fellow will always stick in my mind. He wanted me to
answer detailed "how to questions". I needed to keep stating that this was
not the way to learn OS, that it was a practice that had both form and
essence, and that I would do him and others a disservice to have them feel
that  getting their questions answered in this way would prepare him to do
OS. He said that he was there to add OS as a tool that he could use in his
consulting work. That I might not understand his need because he worked "in
the business world". Anyhow, some of the new people got that this was a
responsible practice and are now keen to go about learning by reading,
training and so on. So all was not lost. This fellow and others though,
never let up. They overpowered with their questions. When it was all over,
he slammed his notebook shut and thanked me and those who had remained and
said that he now had all his questions answered and that he could leave and
do what he really wanted to do with his Sunday afternoon. I was stunned, and
I do know that I could have somehow have handled things differently. I just
didn't know how. I wanted to be sure the needs of those attending were met,
and yet trying to do that conflicted with my values about OS. I wanted to
run away and keep running. OSONOS had turned into a cheap and inadequate
training ground. At least that's how I experienced it. It was never intended
as a training ground, or else we would have done better at it. It was
intended that practitioners could continue their learning together. And I
guess we did at that! Just differently,and not pleasantly. In the morning on
Monday, one of the newer people spoke up, saying that she felt something in
the air, that she was not welcome, that OSONOS was not what she had expected
it to be. I spoke up  in answer, expressing my upset with the previous day,
saying that I felt I could not and would not deliver what was being asked of
me, and at the same time feeling frustrated about not making the newcomers
welcome and if we had only known how many of them were present, we might
have done things differently. Somewhere along the line, we discovered that
what had happened was that immediately following OSONOS, Harrison was doing
an Open Space training in the same hotel. Poor Linda, who was looking after
the training, had received many, many calls about it. Many people who
originally called about training chose to come to OSONOS instead deciding
intentionally that they could achieve their training needs for the low cost
of OSONOS rather than the higher cost of training.  As a result, very few
signed up for the training. This dynamic is what played out throughout
OSONOS. No one's fault. It just was. We will pay more attention to the
wording of the invitation in the future (I too am guilty of having looked
this one over before it went out and didn't catch that it might lead us into
this trouble). I think that many of the newcomers left OSONOS with a very
bad experience of OS. They did not get what they thought they would get out
of the event. As someone who has attended every OSONOS I ended this time not
sure if I would ever frustrate myself like this again, feeling like I
struggled the entire time to be true to what I believe Open Space is and to
my values.

For sure, this is not the whole story, but it is as much as I care to tell
on the list. There were other and even more painful struggles.There also
were some very special things happen that had to do with friendships, new
and old. And the fact that we had representatives from six countries, four

you've now heard more than enough from me about OSONOS. And certainly why
I couldn't communicate sooner. And yet everything ended on a good note for
me. I have sent that in a separate e-mail.

Birgitt Bolton

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