[OSList] A story of leadership that connects to Open Space

Harrison Owen hhowen at verizon.net
Sun Oct 28 12:35:05 PDT 2012

Reading Suzanne's words (well spoken as usual) caused me to think of a
conversation I had been having with a colleague about all the "stuff"
(meteorological, political, social, and geological) that seems to be coming
down at the moment - and how despite everything I found myself being quite
(perhaps perversely) optimistic. Somehow that conversation seemed to fit
with the one Suzanne has initiated. But you can judge.






I totally agree that going the way we are going, we are headed down the
tubes. And doing more and better of the same old thing  will assure that
result. But from where I sit, the present moment is both critical and
positive. Indeed it is predictable and necessary. Using a short hand I am
sure you will understand, we have become addicted to the necessity for
control, which we can never achieve - hence the exhausting sense of failure
and pessimism. Even worse, the very attempt to achieve control is the source
of most, if not all of the personal and organizational pathologies that
bedevil us. 


I think we have learned that when dealing with addictive behavior (control
in this instance), the only way up - more often than not - is down. To hit
bottom, which has the positive effect of introducing some radical honesty.
To switch metaphors: We come to understand that the light at the end of the
tunnel IS the train. I think this moment of radical honesty is close upon
us, and while it is definitely scary, painful and destructive it is also the
first critical step towards a transformational journey. Short take is that
we have to lose our lives in order to save them, as Christians might say. Or
for the contemporary biologist, chaos is the fertile field of new life. No
chaos, No life. Definitely awesome, but the good news is that finally (or
soon) we have reached the end and before us lie some wonderful
possibilities, should we choose to accept them.


This story is as old as the cosmos, and has been told and retold in many
ways. Four thousand years ago it was The Dance of Shiva, the Yin and the
Yang, Marduk and Tiamat - today the story is retold in modern scientific
terms: Emergence, self organization, Complexity Theory. But it is the same
story, I think. Admittedly it can be pretty grim, both in the telling and
(worse) in the experience. All that said, I find it useful to remember,
especially on dark days - just how amazing it is that after all the
catastrophes, actual and potential -- we humans are still here to complain
about how badly things are going. And oddly, or perversely,  I am actually
quite optimistic.


A major source of my optimism comes from what has become a marvelous 27 year
natural experiment with self organization in Human Systems. The findings to
date, at least my findings, go something like this. First: All human systems
are self organizing. Not just a little bit, only on the edges - but through
and through, top to bottom. Second: When allowed (permitted, invited,
encouraged) to operate in their naturally intended fashion, the results can
be truly mind-blowing, including massive increases in productivity,
harmonious interaction of previously conflicted parties, and as a final
benefit, people actually have fun, in the best and deepest sense of the
word, fun. Third: Any attempt to organize such self organizing systems (an
oxymoron at best) almost inevitably results in the radical decline of
productivity, combined with all the pathologies we love to hate, including
low morale, broken communication, frenetic lifestyles, burned out, broken,
sad people. Forth: Since self organization is a naturally occurring
phenomenon, not unlike Gravity, the "fix" has nothing to do with creating
new processes, teaching new tricks - and everything to do remembering who
and what we are: Self organizing. My Buddhist friends might say, "Finding
our original face." It is really very simple, but it does require no small
amount of un-learning and not doing. 


You will not be surprised to learn that the "Natural Experiment" is Open
Space Technology. As with all natural experiments, it wasn't designed as
such (controls, reporting procedures, etc.) in fact it wasn't designed at
all. On occasion people will say that I created it, which is rather a laugh.
As I have come to understand OST it is simply self organization at work. And
to say that I created self organization is a bit of a stretch. Truthfully I
really just stumbled upon it courtesy of two martinis (True!). But over the
years and around the world we have seen multiple examples of the sorts of
things I described as my second finding (above). Single instances would have
been interesting, but over time the numbers have become overwhelming. Nobody
really knows, least of all me, but a fair guess would be 200-300,000
iterations in 136 countries over 27 years. Not every instance is massively
dramatic, but there is a pattern, and in a curious way it (OST) always seems
to work given the necessary preconditions and following a very simple
procedure: Sit in a circle, create a bulletin board, open a market place of
ideas, and go to work. Fifteen minutes for an introduction, 20-30 minutes of
issue identification, a little more time to straighten out the details and
have cup of coffee - and groups up to 3000+ will go to work. Every time and
productively so. Would that I could have designed such a thing. It would be
a wonder and so would I! But knowing what you know about the power of self
organization, the results we have experienced should come as no surprise.








Harrison Owen

7808 River Falls Dr.

Potomac, MD 20854



189 Beaucaire Ave. (summer)

Camden, Maine 20854


Phone 301-365-2093

(summer)  207-763-3261



www.ho-image.com (Personal Website)

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From: oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org
[mailto:oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org] On Behalf Of Suzanne Daigle
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2012 8:55 AM
Subject: [OSList] A story of leadership that connects to Open Space



Today... Sunday and the forces of nature are upon us.  Earthquake in Hawaii,
fortunately the Tsunami warning is now lifted; Hurricane Sandy, a super
storm heading up the North Atlantic coast; and Typhoon Son-Tinh lashing Asia
with winds and flooding.   Add to this the political fire storms in the US
with an upcoming election  and a world that is in the midst of great change
on so many fronts, well we've got ourselves an amazing brew with the type of
chaos that Wave Rider and Open Space Technology are ready-made for.  Yes
indeed it seems that the world is waiting for an unleashing of leadership on
many fronts. What a precious gift we have, those of us who have been
introduced to the beautiful technology of Open Space!  A gift that invites
one and all to roll up their sleeves and pitch in on the stuff that needs to
be done, that we can all do together, using the law of 2 feet and 5
life-honoring principles in a spirit of shared joy, purpose and support. 

If I was inspired this morning it's because of an article I read in the New
York Times, a story of a great hero woman who lived in Maine, not far from
Camden where Harrison lives in the summer.  She wrote a book called Silent
Spring -- a book that changed the world.  It is a story of courage, of
conviction and caring passionately about something, taking responsibility,
making a difference and unleashing one's own leadership.  It's a story about
"coming home to oneself" the same coming home that people often describe
that happens to them after being introduced to Open Space.

So wherever you are whether it be Sunday morning, afternoon or the next day,
I offer you this link thinking that you will also see the wonderful story
behind the story. 

It's the life tale of a great woman, Rachel Carson who researched and wrote
a seminal book Silent Spring that became the genesis for the environmental
movement. It's also a story about the unleashing of personal and collective
leadership that reminds us of the potential that lives inside each of us,
regardless of age, background, socio-economic level, status, education,
gender or race. 

A beautiful article to inspire us as we plan into our WOSonOS 2013 event in
Florida. In the end, what we are planning is a simple affair. What is not
simple however are the beautiful emergent conversations and possible actions
that will ensue as we invite our OS community to imagine what's possible
that would inspire which goes beyond a single event or just a few days. 

In the end, the dream is to imagine more and more people being introduced to
Open Space. Sharon Joy Kleitsch, a community connector and a member of our
planning team, has already started igniting the buzz in the Greater Tampa
Bay area and St. Petersburg Florida where our event will be held, talking
about us, this wonderful gang of Open Space folks from all over the world
who are doing amazing things through this work. 

Just as Phelim and the team inspired many to the importance of Theatre in
Britain in a Road Show series of Open Space events, I imagine in our own way
that more people will have the opportunity "to experience" Open Space
because of our upcoming event.The dream is that mainstream folks from all
walks of life use Open Space to open spaces everywhere to make their world,
our world a better place.

Feeling the gratitude of something much bigger than a Sunday morning cup of


Suzanne Daigle
NuFocus Strategic Group
7159 Victoria Circle
University Park, FL 34201
FL 941-359-8877;  
CT 203-722-2009
s.daigle at nufocusgroup.com
twitter @suzannedaigle

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