Open Space and Dialogue
corcom at interchange.ubc.ca
Fri Dec 24 00:16:01 PST 1999
I have in fact only just stumbled upon Bohm's work and came to it quite
circuitously. Lately I've been reading a lot of books about physics --
The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Paul Davies's works, Fritjof Capra's stuff.
This was just out of interest, but like everything, I found a way to
integrate it into my facilitation practice, and anyway, quantum physics
has a lot to do with Open Space, so it's just like reading about Open
Space without Harrison doing all the talking ;-)...
David Bohm's name came up in a few places. Also I have just been in a
fascinating dialogue on the GRP-FACL list about consensus, and in
rereading Senge to buttress some of my thinking, I came across Bohm's
name again. So all paths led there, and I've just started looking into
On the face of it, it ain't new to me at all. Because I am First
Nations (mixed Irish/Ojibway), and most of my work is with First
Nations, I incorporate a lot of traditional First Nations group dymanics
into my practice, and Bohm's thinking isn't really out of step with the
age old techniques of consensus building that were (and occiasionally
still are) used in First Nations communities.
I'm going this way with Open Space too...introducing it as a technology
that's been around as long as First Nations have been organizing
themselves to do things, which is a very long time indeed. I talk about
Open Space as a technique we have to rediscover, because it got knocked
out of us over the past 200 years or so. Once people figure this out,
they GROOVE in Open Space...I mean, they take to it like you could never
imagine. Picture a group of people not only charged up about the
subject matter but motivated in the process by the realization that this
is probably the first time in their lives they've actually met as their
ancestors did. It's fantastic when the kind of dynamic gets going.
So I'm used to giving little hints in my opening, like navigation tools
for people to use as they're weaving through Space. What I'm interested
in is finding other ways to express these ideas without drawing heavily
on the traditional metaphors that may not always be appropriate in mixed
groups where the non-First Nations people are a bit nervous about
sitting around a circle with Indians to begin with. I find Bohm's
"rules" of dialogue to be helpful in this respect, because it gives me a
language that I can use for those who might not dig the traditional
This is a long way of saying that I agree with Christopher Kloth who
warned about trying to "structure" dialogue in at the beginning...I've
never seen that kind of manipulation of the process work in Open Space.
Peg hit the nail on the head with her comments about how people just do
it (the old Nike approach to self-organizing!). I agree. That is what
happens in Open Space, always and invariably. In the words of a great
Monty Python sketch, "you tell people that today and they just don't
Thanks for those who responded. I'm sorry now to have started this
thread so close to the Christmas break for many, but let's follow it and
see where it goes.
As an aside, for those of you who are interested in the results of my
discussions on GRP-FACL regarding consensus, email me off list. The
discussion weaves together theories about the role of the individual and
the group, collectivist vs. individualist cultures and the use of
consensus in First Nations communities. It ends with me hypothesising
that in consensus processes situated in collectivist cultural settings,
there is no distinction between the individual and the group. That was
the point where I seemed to have lost people. So I'll move the
discussion to interested people on this list, as I'm sure anybody who
has ever seen an Open Space will recognize what I'm saying.
What I have is a fifteen page trasncription of the discussion, quite
readable, structured somewhat narratively and full of a million good
ideas. I'll gladly send this to those who are interested, but I'd
prefer to keep the discussion off line here, because it only barely
touches on Open Space.
Happy mid-winter festivities to all.
108-1035 Pacific Street
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