Open Space and Dialogue

Peg Holman pholman at
Thu Dec 23 08:57:51 PST 1999


My experience is that Dialogue, as Bohm describes it, can and does happen
spontaneously in Open Space.  I say that based on two things.  First,
several years of working with Dialogue before I  was introduced to Open
Space; so I have a feel for what Dialogue tastes like.  And second, an
experience during the very first OS I did without experienced support.  This
was at U S WEST.  There were about 40 people, the issue was a divisive one.
When the sessions were posted, only one was placed in the first time period.
I literally sat on my hands because I kept wondering "what are all the
people not interested in this subject going to do?"  Turns out this was the
HOT topic and no one was going to miss it.  This group quickly figured out
that they wouldn't fit in the breakout room so they returned to the large
circle.  These network technicians then proceeded to engage in deep inquiry.
They'd had no training, they just did it.  There was intense exchange among
these people as they worked very hard to hear different perspectives.  I sat
in the back in awe as I watched Bohmian Dialogue naturally unfold before my
eyes.  Since then, I've seen this happen, albeit not with such intensity,
again and again.  So I personally think you don't need to do anything but
observe to notice Dialogue happening in OS.

That said, I do see value in increasing people's awareness of the practice
of Dialogue.  That seems to me to be an activity outside of an Open Space.

My own bias is that three practices are involved in creating news ways of
working -- Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space, and Dialogue.  AI offers a
powerful framework for understanding, OS offers a powerful way of being
together, and Dialogue offers a powerful way of thinking together.  Together
they cause dramatically different behavior.

I hope that ultimately dialogue becomes the default practice in
communication, the water we swim in.  I think that were it the "normal" way
we talk with each other, we'd create a very different world.

Peg Holman

----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris Corrigan" <corcom at>
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 1999 4:18 PM
Subject: Open Space and Dialogue

> Has anyone done any work with integrating Open Space with David Bohm
> thoughts on Dialogue?
> I'm referring specifically to the idea contained here:
> I'm thinking of finding a way to integrate Dialogue into an Open Space
> I'm doing in January, and would be interested if others had any
> experience here.
> Happy holidays,
> Chris
> --
> 108-1035 Pacific Street
> Vancouver BC
> V6E 4G7
> Phone: 604.683.3080
> Fax: 604.683-3036

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