[OSList] A Question About Safety

Birgitt Williams birgitt at dalarinternational.com
Thu Aug 23 05:33:23 PDT 2018

Hi Sara,
For all sorts of reasons, people give up their leadership of their lives,
allowing their lives to be led by someone else, something else. We ask a
question within our work, which is dedicated to nourishing a culture of
leadership, "are you leading your life and if not, who or what is?". This
question leads to important conversations, insights,
breakthroughs...sometimes quickly, sometimes over a fairly long period of
time. From my perspective, the discussion of leadership provides more
usefulness in people claiming their power than the discussions of
empowerment. The emphasis in the discussions about leadership focus on
every person's innate ability to engage in leadership. Once that choice is
made, there are additional ways to support people in learning to empower
themselves, retain their energy, use their energy wisely and well.

I would be excited if the topic of leadership of one's life was part of
core curriculum in schools at any age. The topic requires a change in the
leadership paradigm from 'leading so that others will follow' to the
paradigm 'leading so others will lead'. The new paradigm requires awareness
of developing a culture of leadership in which leadership is valued. It is
a life nurturing culture, rising above the life depleting cultures that are

I now relate this to the Open Space of the world, and then to the OST

People accepting self leadership and learning to work from their personal
power rather than giving it away or 'leaking it' get on in the Open Space
of the world, following what has heart and meaning, being present in the
moment and using what Harrison coined 'the law of two feet'. At no point is
there a guarantee by the Universe that the world is 'safe space'. I believe
that Einstein, when answering the question of what the most important
question for people to be able to answer was, said something like 'whether
the Universe is a friendly or unfriendly place'. This is a pretty
fundamental question about living on planet earth and all people, often
subconsciously, wrestle with their answer to that question.

It is possible to take what I have highlighted above, and think about how
this all relates to an OST meeting. For me, I do the following:
1.in the preparatory work with the formal leadership, we determine the
theme, length of time needed, and the 'givens' related to the amount of
space that they are opening in the organization for the innovation,
creativity, recommendations, prioritization and sometimes decisions by the
people. The early on challenges I had with OST were when the space was
portrayed as bigger than it truly was...or smaller than it truly was.

2.in describing the law of two feet that I prefer to call the law of
mobility, to make it clear that it is up to the people to use their
mobility to move if they are not learning, not contributing....and it is
possible at this point to add 'or for any reason not feeling safe'

3.in both preparation and facilitation, I never promise safe space. I don't
believe that any of us can guarantee safe space for another.

No amount of some kind of 'training' to participate in an OST is going to
solve what you have noted.

OST itself is a great 'tool' for giving people the opportunity to engage in
their self leadership...and this can be beautifully enhanced by how the
reflection circle at the end is done. When I learned OST from Harrison back
in 1992, what I loved the most was how skillfully he had adjusted and then
used what I recognized as the Medicine Wheel at the end of an OST for
collective reflection. The first question he asked was 'what did you learn
during this experience about leadership?'.

Several OST meetings within the same organization, over time, well done,
with reflections for processing the experience can help to build and
strengthen self leadership muscles.

in genuine contact,

On Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 6:05 AM Sarah Grange via OSList <
oslist at lists.openspacetech.org> wrote:

> The question of “Safe spaces” has come up recently in our regular OST
> programme, following some incidents where participants felt there was
> racism and transphobia at our big annual event. There was a request for
> more rules or guidelines, which we’ve resisted, but it’s a thorny old issue
> because not everyone feels strong enough to call out bad behaviour when it
> happens, and the natural reaction is to look to us as organisers to
> discipline or regulate behaviour. There’s also a tendency for people to
> report bad behaviour after the event, so we’re unable to support or
> facilitate a conversation in the moment. I don’t know what to do about this
> beyond keep on having the conversation with participants. We eventually
> held an OS specifically on the question of supporting people within Os
> <https://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/Event/devoted-disgruntled-allies>
> and there was considerable disagreement, with some participants calling
> for rules <https://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/Blog/does-dd-need-rules>
>  or stronger guidelines on how to hold conversations
> <https://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/Blog/i-think-there-is-a-lot-of-assuming-prejudging-and-snap-comments-made-at-d-d-that-have-negative-impac>
>  and others (including me)
> <https://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/Blog/dd-producers-ally-to-do-list> feeling
> that would disempower people rather than support them, and was totally
> un-OST.  The issue remains unresolved, so I’d love to know if anyone has
> tried anything along the guidelines/participant-led codes of conduct etc
> and whether there was any success with that..
> On 21 Aug 2018, at 21:31, oslist-request at lists.openspacetech.org wrote:
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>   1. Re:  (Rolf F. Katzenberger)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2018 22:27:04 +0200
> From: "Rolf F. Katzenberger" <rolf.katzenberger at gmx.net>
> To: World wide Open Space Technology email list
> <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>, David Osborne via OSList
> <oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>
> Subject: Re: [OSList] A Question About Safety
> Message-ID: <AD226D32-0425-48E7-9A00-D630206BB9AE at gmx.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> David,
> Having read your later explanation of "safe", I feel it's also useful to
> look a bit closer at "self-organization".
> From a systemic perspective, it is impossible for a complex system (like
> an org, or a group of people within) to *not* self-organize. It does not
> matter whether conditions are great, indifferent or lousy, groups of people
> will self-organize and adapt, as they always have.
> So, while we may be unhappy about the *results* of it, self-organization
> in itself cannot be stopped by too much safety. It is a capability and
> power we can always rely on, for better or worse.
> It seems we rather need to focus more on the desired results, i.e. on the
> words immediately following the word "self-organizing...". Like e.g. "...
> team". By stressing "self-organization" instead, and e.g. contrasting it to
> "passiveness" or "complacency" or "too much safety", we might simply be
> barking up the wrong tree.
> So, coming back to your question, I'd reply with another question: If
> you're not happy about the current results of self-organization - what
> different results would you like to see, instead, and how could you modify
> the conditions so that it becomes more likely for self-organization to work
> towards the desired results.
> Just my 2 cents,
> Rolf
> Am 21. August 2018 06:49:20 MESZ schrieb David Osborne via OSList <
> oslist at lists.openspacetech.org>:
> Greetings all,
> I have questions about safety related to self-organization I would love
> others thoughts on.
> Is it possible for an environment can be too safe to support
> self-organization? Can safety be at such a high level that it inhibits
> or
> slows down the self-organizing process?
> I'm very interested to hear others perspectives.
> Best to all,
> David
> *David R. Osborne*
> Organization and Leadership Development
> 6402 Arlington Blvd., Suite 1120, Falls Church, VA 22042
> 703-939-1777 <(703)%20939-1777>   |   dosborne at change-fusion.com   |
> change-fusion.com
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Birgitt Williams

Closing the Gap Between Potential and Results

Services http://www.dalarinternational.com/services/

Leadership & Organizational Development Training, http://

Author, President & Senior Consultant of Dalar International Consultancy,

Co-founder: Genuine Contact program

Co-founder of the Extraordinary Leadership Network

Co-owner of the Genuine Contact Co-owners Group Ltd.

*Supporting leadership development for leading in a culture requiring
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