Open Space Flexibility

koos de heer koosdhr at
Tue Jul 27 08:56:37 PDT 1999

Part two of my conversation with Bill King.



Dear Bill,

I understand that it can be important to have a common
information base. Maybe there are other ways to achieve
that though, and I want to suggest an alternative. But
if I am pushing it too far just tell me to back off ;-)

It has been done before, but having people sit and listen
to a lecture the day before you want to open the space
with them is not a very good idea. I know two alternatives
that will achieve the same effect and work much better in
an OS setting. One is to distribute the information as a
reader beforehand. That way people can work their way
through it on their own and skip the parts they already
know. Another possibility would be to use the first day
for disseminating the necessary information like you
planned, but to do that in Open Space. People who have
the required information can offer workshops about the
different aspects and the people interested can choose
whichever workshops they need most or find most interesting.
The combination will also work: sending around a reader
and sugesting that people who want to discuss the information
in the conference are free to do so (they always are - this
is, after all, Open Space!). Also in this approach, I would
not schedule break out groups beforehand. The suggestion
that the information can be discussed should be enough to
remind those people who want to of the possibilities.

To me the whole idea of "I think you need this information
and I will make you listen to it" is going against the
entire philosophy of Open Space. If you are going to trust
these people with Open Space, then you will also have to
trust them to take the initiative to get the information
they need.


At 09:32 26-07-1999 -0500, you wrote:
>Thanks for your response.  It is helpful to get both your advice and
>cautions.  I am passing this information along to my colleagues who are
>planning the conference and it will be up to them to determine if they will
>proceed with a virtual open space, prior to the physical gathering.  FYI,
>the first day begins at noon as people will be arriving in Chicago that
>morning.  We will be examining a report and related materials on the future
>of associations and their work, in a variety of presentations and small
>group discussions.  This work will lay out the theme and provide a common
>information base and understanding for this group of staff.  The staff hold
>varying responsibilities, have differing levels of experience in association
>work, some are new others have been around 5-10 years.  They only have an
>opportunity to meet every few years specifically to address issues in their
>role as staff (depending on topics there are several other opportunities
>annually for most to get together, but this conference brings together not
>just the "program/management" staff, but also the administrative and support
>staff, who seldom get a chance to meet with colleagues, but because of the
>small size of our staffs, often perform functions that are similar to
>At any rate, your response has been very helpful and I would be pleased to
>have you gather other input from your colleagues by sharing this

koos de heer
auryn management advies
utrecht, netherlands
mailto:koosdhr at

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