[OSList] The Question

Michael M Pannwitz via OSList oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Mon Feb 1 03:07:31 PST 2016

Yes, to what you said Koos.

And: in my many encounters with other practitioners I have seen 
assumptions they have about what is "scary" or "not acceptable" to the 
client they are involved with... and, zap, adapt OST. And that WITHOUT 
telling the client what the adapted format will not deliver.

In my own practice I try to check my assumptions with the client and 
dont suggest adaptations on mere assumptions.
When I am requested to adapt something, I tell the client the 
consequences... more often than not, this will result in less or no 

In multi-levered organisations where I am not contacted by the client 
itself but by other folks such as someone from the OD department, I 
listen to all the assumptions about what will not be acceptable (the OD 
departments speaking from their experiences). My response (which is 
basically the same as in any organisations) is to offer a no fee 1 to 
1.5hr contact meeting (in person) with all involved in  eventually 
deciding on the approach. EVERY time such a  meeting has taken place, 
the also present "in the know" are stunned by the response of the 
deciders: sure lets do it that way.
And I dont accept a request without having had a contact meeting.

Its a good time to frankly talk about all the dangers involved in having 
an OST event. One might wonder about what on earth might be dangerous... 
such as "people might want to start stuff on their own after the OST 
event", usually the response to that possibility is "Well, we always 
dreamed about folks starting stuff on their own!"

Of course, occasionally the contact meeting is the last time I heard 
from them... until, sometimes years later, exactly those that did decide 
not to work with OST call me again. Not because I am about the most 
marvellous ost facilitator  on this planet but, my assumption, because I 
did not "sell" them ost or some adaptation of the same...

Wishing us all a grand week

On 31.01.2016 20:54, Koos de Heer via OSList wrote:
> Yes, what Michael Herman said.
> And: there are gatherings I have seen and other gatherings that people
> have talked to me about, that were called Open Space but did not open
> the space very much. Because there was no Law of Two Feet, and/or
> because there was a preset agenda, that kind of thing. There are a few
> things that make up the essence of Open Space and if you take those
> away, you can of course go ahead and have fun with your meeting, but
> don’t call it Open Space.
> There can be a lot of reasons to play with the format and adapt it.
> Nothing wrong with that.  But I know that for folks who are used to
> conventional meetings and the old corporate way of managing an
> organization, it can be a pretty scary thing to do an Open Space. And
> more often than not, these folks try to combat their fear by adapting
> Open Space into something less scary. Usually, making it less scary
> takes away the essence of Open Space. Those are, at least in my book,
> the wrong reasons to play with the format. And in those cases, I become
> one of the “elders” who say: don’t tamper with it, because it is not
> going to work. And for good reason.
> Koos
> *Van:*OSList [mailto:oslist-bounces at lists.openspacetech.org] *N**amens
> *Michael Herman via OSList
> *Verzonden:* zondag 31 januari 2016 19:12
> *Aan:* paul levy <paul at cats3000.net>; World wide Open Space Technology
> email list <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>
> *Onderwerp:* Re: [OSList] The Question
> This whole story about a split between OST and opening space, this bit
> about unchanging dogma is a big mystery to me.
> There is what is written in the User's Guide.  And then there is what
> all of us do.  I can remember exactly one instance, almost twenty years
> ago, when anyone said to me "that's not open space cuz it's not what's
> written i the book."  That was in person, but i've never actually heard
> any such thing on the list.
> And I see LOTS of changes and adaptations.  What was written as 3 days
> has been experimented down to 3 hours or even less.  Convergence still
> happens, but non-convergence happens probably more, and other
> convergences, too.  John Engle taught us to open with skits instead of
> posters, and oral reports instead of typed notes.  We've mixed OST with
> appreciative inquiry.  I once sprinkled six breakout sessions into a
> formal, powerpoint-heavy corporate top leadership retreat week.  Ralph
> Copleman came to the list once for ideas on how to open space or do OST
> on a beach without walls.  Anne Stadler and friends experimented with
> ongoing, quarterly open space practice.  Others of us have run OST-like
> tracks inside of traditional conferences, sometimes as part of the
> conference plan and at least once as a totally emergent experiment that
> ran on nametags that said "ask me about open space" and a pop-up
> community bulletin board wall in a hallway.  Daniel Mezick has opened a
> new frontier in adapting the practice of open space tech to agile adoption.
> Brian Bainbridge, who once told me that he read a little bit of the
> user's guide before every time he facilitated an open space meeting,
> also came to this list with a report about how he'd just stood at a
> podium, on a stage, looking out at decidedly-not-a-circle sitting in
> cushy fixed seats, given a little opening invitation briefing and had
> people streaming across the stage to post their topics on some sort of
> temporary wall.  And that was it.  No breakouts, no proceedings, no open
> space?  Not a chance.  The group buzzed about those topics through the
> rest of their conference, in lots of standard sessions and the usual
> coffee breaks.
> The thing that stands out for me about these things, other than that
> they never got written up in any of harrison's books, is that they
> happened -- they weren't hypothetical, mental exercises we did on the
> list.   They were real live practice stories first.   This tells me
> that, true to the intro of the original user's guide, anyone can go and
> experiment and bring the story back for conversation and learning.  When
> we talk in theories and generalities, including about dogma, dogma
> arises.  When we talk about the real things we did and what seemed to
> happen as a result, there is no room or need for dogma.  There is only
> the work of understanding what's happening(ed).  And then everyone in
> the conversation can choose whether to repeat or adjust that experiment,
> in any other situation that might show up.
> There are all these new things that have been tried and shared, and
> there are also many common threads and practices.  I see no benefit in
> or need for tagging the common ground as dogma OR for things differently
> only for the sake of novelty.  In practice, the only thing that matters
> is what we actually do and how it works.  What we think is happening,
> what we believe might work, and all manner of intellectualizing and
> theorizing is just so much distraction, until somebody actually puts it
> on the ground in the center of a circle or flashmob or stage.
> As you're describing these two apparent sides, Paul, I really can't
> figure who's on what side.  It seems to have something to do with being
> older or newer in the practice, but that doesn't really explain it.  I
> know I have been called at various times both purist and heretic.  I
> think that might be true for many of the folks i've learned from, my
> elders, and also many of those I call peers in the practice.  I wonder
> if what you're labeling dogma isn't really more about depth of
> experience and rigor of reflection and analysis.  When the conversation
> is focused on practice, more than theory, those with more experience
> have more stories to share.  As long as we keep focused on practice,
> there's nothing wrong with that.
> I think it might be that when we wander out into questions like "What is
> Open Space Technology," and get away from what anyone is actually doing,
> in practice, experience ceases to count and those with more experience
> are seen as just dominating the conversation with their old stories.
>   "What is Open Space Technology" is a groundless conversation.  Nothing
> wrong with that, but in removing itself from the ground of practice, it
> leaves us no way to evaluate anything that comes in response.  In this
> way, it invalidates lived experience.  If, instead, we ask "How are we
> explaining the practice of open space to clients we want to hire us?"
>   ...or something like this, past experience is valued again, to show us
> what's worked and not worked.  We can see patterns in how the things
> we've said and how they worked have been able to change and evolve.  We
> can make guesses, choose from the options and go test each and all of
> them directly, for ourselves.  History and new experiments are equally
> needed and valuable.
> For all the talk about dogma, I have no idea what any actual dogmatic
> definition of OST might be.  The user's guide is a historical artifact,
> a concept paper, and by it's own admission only a restating of a sort of
> older, universal concept.  It's a beginning point for our community that
> needs neither abandoning or sanctifying.  We just need to keep proving
> it out, in practice, in the space we open here, between experience and
> experimentation -- neither one better or more important than the other.
> It's the going back and forth, in practice, that has made and can/will
> continue to make us stronger.
> Learning and contributing, passion and responsibility, breathing in and
> breathing out, four principles and one law, and now, if you will...
> experience and experimenting.  another slice of "mutuality" -- the
> co-existent, inter-informing play of apparent opposites -- arising in
> open space.
> Michael
> --
> Michael Herman
> Michael Herman Associates
> 312-280-7838 (mobile)
> http://MichaelHerman.com
> http://OpenSpaceWorld.org
> On Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 10:11 AM, paul levy via OSList
> <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org <mailto:oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>>
> wrote:
>     This was my attempt at this a while back. It still feels relevant to
>     Daniels's question...
>     best wishes
>     Paul Levy
>     Open Space Technology opens space. That might sound a bit strange,
>     or even a bit obvious, but bear with me.  I’ve said that for a reason.
>     In the Open Space Technology community of practitioners and fans
>     I’ve encountered over the last twenty years, there is a strong
>     behavioural pattern of not changing the first and original version
>     of Open Space Technology. Harrison Owen called it a technology – it
>     is a way of doing something that does this: opens space. SO why
>     change it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
>     Open Space Technology, as you’ll find it taught today, is just about
>     exactly the same as it was back in the ’80s.
>     Now, back to “Open Space Technology opens space”. What on earth does
>     that mean?
>     It opens space for a conversation. It opens space for self-organised
>     exploration of an issue of importance to a community. It opens space
>     for getting things done. And often a hell of a lot of things do get
>     done from an Open Space event.
>     There sits a group in a circle, and when the space opens and they
>     self-organise, using the minimal structure of the Open Space
>     Technology process (marketplace, principles, rules etc), all kinds
>     of stuff then bursts into the physical space from the previously
>     hidden world of Spirit, (Or Potential, if you prefer), realising all
>     kinds of action in space and time. In other words, practical, useful
>     and usable action results. Open Space Technology has achieved that
>     again and again and again and again and again and … (insert tens of
>     thousands of ‘agains’ here). No, it really has.
>     So, as I said, Open Space Technology er… opens space.
>     Over the years, this hardly changed technology has added a new
>     principle, and tinkered with the wording here or there.
>     Anticlockwise “walking of the circle” has crept in, and the odd
>     talking stick has popped up, and an Eastern gong brings back
>     attention to the circle. But, at its core, Open Space Technology is
>     a technology that has never had (nor, according to its fan base)
>     needed, an upgrade.
>     Indeed, whenever an upgrade has been suggested, the elders in the
>     Open Space movement tend to sigh knowingly and then kindly offer
>     “Aw, shaddup and open some space already!”. If that sounds like a
>     generalisation, I invite you to read the Open Space discussion list
>     over the years and you’ll find plenty of evidence of “don’t change a
>     thing”.
>     Suggestions for change will come and go with the passing of mortal
>     facilitators, but Open Space technology is either as timeless as
>     love, or will pass away, unchanged, in its own good time.
>     At recent OSONOSes (What is THAT?, I hear you ask – it’s an Open
>     Space meeting ON Open Space!), I discovered that a lot of people
>     like the fact that Open Space Technology is largely still below the
>     radar of mainstream organisational intervention and meeting theory.
>     It quietly piles up its tally of successfully opened spaces without
>     much care for detailed research into its practice and efficacy. It
>     lies largely outside of journal based scrutiny, and, most of all, it
>     lies beyond innovation and tinkering with its own process. Yet at
>     two recent OSonOses I met a significant number of people who do
>     adapt it, change it, innovate it, and they still find that, not
>     surprisingly – space still opens! They feel as bit sad that its a
>     golden field of practice that doesn’t seem to want to lovingly
>     question its foundations. As a result, what should have been a
>     changing, organic building, has turned into a temple that moves only
>     its pot plants around.
>     Yet space still opens. Of course it does. You see, Open Space
>     technology opens space. But so do a bunch of other gorgeous and
>     eloquent processes. And sometimes (and I heard more than a few
>     stories confirming this), dogmatically unchanged Open Space
>     Technology limits the opening of space. The officionados would claim
>     that it is never Open Space Technology that limits the opening of
>     space, but a bunch of other factors. It’s the sponsor’s fault, or
>     the facilitator should have done X or Y differently. They usually
>     sigh at the facilitator and say “Get over it, and just stick to the
>     knitting”.
>     This is all very (annoyingly) general, I know. But I’ll keep to that
>     and see if the generality resonates with anyone reading this for now.
>     I’ve written in detail, elsewhere on this site, how and why dogmatic
>     use of Open Space Technology can inhibit and limit the opening of space.
>     I do believe there are archetypal elements in Open Space Technology
>     that are pretty timeless or, at least, standing up pretty well in
>     terms of relevance and applicability, to the test of Time’s passage.
>     Archetypes tend towards timelessness.
>     In Action Learning, for example, reflection on action is a pretty
>     timeless archetype. As Action  Learning has evolved into a range of
>     approaches, that core concept of the “learning cycle” of
>     conceptualisation, experimentation, action and reflection,  seems to
>     stay relevantly at the core of all the diverse developments. Yet how
>     we do action learning has changed wonderfully.
>     In dialogue work, as another example, the importance of active
>     listening remains and pervades, even as the field of practice widens.
>     In Open Space technology, the archetype of the circle remains and
>     has a deep living quality, wherever space is opened. Equally, the
>     spirit (if not the wording) of the principles remains vibrant and
>     relevant. The notion of self-organisation sits at the heart of the
>     natural world, and is a core, timeless quality of opening space. But
>     “Breaking news”, and “Marketplace” and even the role of the
>     facilitator, are not as fundamental as many of the elders think they
>     are.
>     At the OSonOses (including the World one) I met people who thanked
>     me for challenging the status quo (which wasn’t in any plan of mine
>     going in). Some said they didn’t feel they could challenge Open
>     Space Technology at these events, nor share alternatives or share
>     stories of how they has changed it in practice.  I myself got some
>     hate mail from an Open Space elder a few years back when we ran an
>     OSonOs exploring “Beyond the dogma”. I’m not sure how true it is
>     that there’s a norm to stick to the technology like glue or feel
>     like an outsider. It’s a big shame if it is true and if it becomes
>     true at the WOSonOs in Florida in 2013. There’s certainly nothing
>     formal to stop healthy challenge and questioning, but quite a few
>     people pointed to a norm that exists in the Open Space Technology
>     community, that critique marks you out as a kind of “misery guts”,
>     even as a betrayer of a lovely elderly gentleman. Basically you are
>     pooping on a party that is so benevolent is lies beyond that poop.
>     Open Space Technology, in its classic form, opens space. Often, and
>     beautifully. But it isn’t the only “technology” that opens space,
>     nor is it always the best or right one. Also it isn’t only
>     technology that opens space. Art also does it. Often, when a
>     facilitator is truly in the moment, in an ego-free state of service
>     to his or her community, space opens and NEW approaches emerge,
>     sometimes beautiful hybrids of Open Space Technology, sometimes tiny
>     adaptations, sometimes entirely new fusions, versions, forms.
>     Sometimes something entirely close to Open Space Technology
>     “escapes” into our practice entirely afresh, especially when we have
>     forgotten it!
>     At the heart of all these approaches I believe is nearly always the
>     circle, the principle and love of self-organisation, the creative
>     urge towards getting things done, and also a kind of acceptance of
>     the rightness of who is there, where we are, whatever happens and
>     also, the love of freedom to flow in and out of the open space as
>     needed. These are the archetypal qualities that have led to Open
>     Space Technology being so powerful and enduring.
>     But there is no need for chapter and verse, no need for the
>     technology to be so rigid in its core design. What is important is
>     that potential that wants to be realised can find its way to space
>     that has opened for it. Fractured communities that come together
>     into circles and then self-organise into smaller circles, before
>     reforming into bigger ones again, always linked to the strength of
>     that “holding circle” can use the circle to achieve amazing things,
>     notably synergy, where we are more together and where the circle
>     gives us shared inner and outer focus.
>     “Whatever” is more important than any Open Space Technology Dogma.
>     But not the whatever of laziness and indifference. This is the
>     whatever of emergence, of the space that reveals, the circle that
>     opens into possibility and then turns possibility into free choice,
>     and free choice into committed action in and upon the world.
>     So, I’ve discovered there are now two overlapping (uneasily)
>     communities, There is the Open Space Technology Community, employing
>     a technology that Harrison Owen could have tried to patent or
>     copyright but didn’t, but has instead offered it freely to the
>     world, trusting its beauty and success in the world, to leave it
>     unchanged and used as needed in the world. Then there is a larger
>     community which is the Open Space community that uses the classic
>     version of the technology but also adapts it, and also uses other
>     methods, all of which, more or less, open space for
>     self-organisation, for conversation and action. I think it’s a pity,
>     and also a bit of an emerging tragedy that those at the core of the
>     Open Space Technology Community (by no means all of them) are not
>     more open to change and innovation from that wider community, to be
>     enriched and inspired by it. Because of this, the Open Space
>     Technology community now has its own underground where people ARE
>     questioning its fundamentals and morphing it, but aren’t sharing
>     that openly at its events nor on its discussion lists. When they do,
>     there tends to be a benevolent and parental closing down by many of
>     its supporters to just leave things as they are and put faith in the
>     version that is never in need of an upgrade.
>     Sometimes space needs to open without any stated principles, without
>     any structure-polemic, no matter how minimal and well meant.
>     Sometimes space needs to open with few if any words.  Sometimes
>     space opens better in the language of the community and not the
>     language of Open Space Technology. Sometimes space opens better
>     through artistry, not technology.  Sometimes space opens without the
>     need for a physical circle, and sometimes even without the need for
>     a facilitator. Sometimes space opens with Open Space Technology in
>     its original form.
>     But sometimes that form becomes a wall. The stories where Open Space
>     Technology has failed to open space tend to go unreported, part of a
>     collusion of niceness. Those stories are there to be found, but they
>     are below the radar of the community that has confused blanket
>     positivity with the grittier, messier mission of Open Space to bring
>     beauty to the world. Avoidance of our pain is often both fatal and ugly.
>     Open Space Technology, when it becomes ossified, becomes arthritic.
>     When a facilitator doesn’t just DO Open Space Technology, but
>     becomes open space in their own inner activity, they will sense what
>     needs to be done, not out of dogma, but out of the present needs of
>     the situation. Often this situation will call for a traditional use
>     of Open Space Technology. But not always.  Sometimes we need to open
>     space. And it is beautiful that there are so many ways to do that.
>     What am I suggesting? I’m suggesting it might be time for Open Space
>     Technology to open the trap door – the trap door to its own
>     beautiful critique. It needs to look more warmly and openly at what
>     is growing consciously below its own radar. And it isn’t about
>     defending the first technological model from a position of elder
>     wisdom. It’s about inviting in the younger ones, the new generation.
>     If Open Space Technology lies beyond an upgrade, then let that view
>     survive a healthy Popper-esque conversation. But in 2012 I met some
>     truly wonderful people who have upgraded it anyway. They are the
>     right people, in the right place, at the right time, who dance with
>     two wonderful feet into the future. Be prepared to be surprised by them.
>     Something tells me it isn’t quite over yet, Harrison Owen!
>     Welcome to the open space community. It loves Open Space Technology.
>     But it loves so much more too.
>     (Original article appeared here:
>     https://rationalmadness.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/open-space-technology-and-open-space/
>     )
>     On 28 January 2016 at 17:55, Daniel Mezick via OSList
>     <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
>     <mailto:oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>> wrote:
>         What is Open Space Technology?
>         --
>         Daniel Mezick
>         Culture Strategist. Author. Keynoter.
>         (203) 915 7248 <tel:%28203%29%20915%207248>. Bio.
>         <http://www.DanielMezick.com/> Blog.
>         <http://www.NewTechUSA.net/blog/> Twitter.
>         <https://twitter.com/DanielMezick>
>         Book: The Culture Game. <http://theculturegame.com/>
>         Book: The OpenSpace Agility Handbook.
>         <http://www.amazon.com/OpenSpace-Agility-Handbook-Daniel-Mezick/dp/0984875336>
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Michael M Pannwitz
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