[OSList] The Question

Daniel Mezick via OSList oslist at lists.openspacetech.org
Mon Feb 1 05:06:57 PST 2016

Greetings to One and All,

Koos strongly implies these items are essential to OST:

  * Law of Two Feet
  * Absence of any agenda at start

...note that I purposely do not say, I avoid saying:  "..at start of 
Opening Circle" or "...at start of opening circle", or ....

.... well, you get the idea (I think.)

I wonder who joins with Koos on these two points. I wonder if there are 
other essential items.

I wonder if it is heresy for Koos to speak with authority on what is 
essential to OST, and what is not.

Regarding dogma, if there is a culturally enforced rule here prohibiting 
dogma, this rule is "dogma about dogma,", or "dogma qua dogma."

Savez-vous pourquoi? Est-ce pas?


Koos says:

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.

On 1/31/16 2:54 PM, 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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Daniel Mezick
Culture Strategist. Author. Keynoter.
(203) 915 7248. Bio. <http://www.DanielMezick.com/> Blog. 
<http://www.NewTechUSA.net/blog/> Twitter. 
Book: The Culture Game. <http://theculturegame.com/>
Book: The OpenSpace Agility Handbook. 

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