OS convergence (yet another flavor)

Dave Potter 3d at turbonet.com
Tue Sep 1 23:13:51 PDT 1998

Dear OS list,

I just joined this list yesterday and, instead of my usual
sit-and-lurk-until-it-feels-safe, I thought I'd just jump right in to share
about my first real-life experience with Open Space, and what we did in the
way of closure and convergence of OS topics.

I had the wonderful opportunity of co-facilitating the Open Space meeting
with Kay Vogt.  Kay, having done many OS gatherings before, provided a
terrific model, and what happened with the group was phenomenal, making me
a real believer in the power of OS.  So here I am, thanks to Kay and to
that experience!

The meeting was FCE's (Foundation for Community Encouragement) annual
"Community Continuity Conference", and the Open Space was designed to
complement the rest of the program, the Open Space being preceded by a day
and a half of FCE-style community-building.  Our OS section was a 1-plus
day component of the 4 day conference, and 90 people from all over the US
and abroad were in attendence.

Kay, evidently like many OS practitioners, isn't fond of the "prioritize
and vote for 10 topics" way of converging, and suggested we do something
different.  Fortunately for us, it wasn't expected that the group would
emerge with action plans, but it was important that we provide a meaningful
closure and synthesis.

Kay was intrigued with how, at a corporate retreat I'd led a few weeks
before, I had used skits instead of reports, as a way of bringing to life
the initiatives that emerged.  She wondered if we might do something
similar with this group.

Late afternoon of the first day, after the OS sessions had completed and
reports had been entered on the computers, we gathered the whole group
together.  Using a silent "affinity" process (all 25 topics on the wall on
post-its, the group forms around and begins to move the post-its until they
form into distinct groups - an amazing process, and fun to watch!), they
generated four groupings.

Then, we had them self-select into four sub-groups to do the presenting,
each group retreating to one of the break-out rooms, using the last hour of
the Open Space day to prepare for the next morning's presentation.  Not all
90 participated in creating presentations (which was OK, of course), and
each group had 8-12 people presenting.

Their instructions (as summarized on a flip-chart that afternoon) for the
skits were:

- 7 MINUTES TOTAL (we were going to be short of time, having been told by
the conference coordinator that our two hour closing for Open Space the
next day was cut to 45 minutes(!!).  We told the presenters that the entire
group would break out into wild and appreciative applause at exactly 7
minutes, no matter where they were in the presentation, even if they were
mid-sentence.  They received this news with enthusiasm and it only
increased the excitement and challenge.)
- CONVEY: essence, meaning, feeling, direction, impact,...
- BE CREATIVE (around this bullet, in different colors was: "dramatic",
"theater", "TV or game show", "action", "mime", "voice/music", "role-play",
"mime", "news cast", "body movement")
- INVOLVE as many people as possible
- NO talking heads (ie., nobody reading listed items or a summary for the

It was incredible!  There were four presentations, each of them were done
without energy-draining introductions (eg., "this is what we decided to do,
blah, blah, blah"),  and one was done completely in mime.  Even with no, or
very few, introductory words, it was powerfully clear what the essence of
each was.  One group, without asking or even gesturing to invite the larger
group (simply by modeling it themselves at the end of their 7 minutes), had
all 90 people standing, singing, moving, and clapping along with them with
revival energy and spirit.  All four presentations were electrifying.

After the presentations, in the final closure, we asked all 90 participants
to think of a single word that would describe their experience, and then
for them to stand, one by one, saying that word aloud, until all 90 were
standing.  After all were standing, they were to come to the middle of the
circle and take one of the 90 sets of proceedings that were stacked there,
and that would end the session.  They popped up randomly and with great
energy, it was like a popcorn-Sparticus happening!

There was great excitement and energy that morning, and they made
memorable, moving, and creative presentations whose life, meaning, and
healing will live with the group (and me) for a very long time.


Discovery-Dialogue-Direction, Inc. (3D)
1191 Tolo Trail
Moscow, Idaho  83843
tel  (208) 882-6880   fax (208) 882-6861
mailto:3d at turbonet.com

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