The Newsletter of the Open Space Institute (US),
Issue 2, September,1999
Purpose of the Newsletter
The purpose of the newsletter is to make our stories available to each other
so that we continue to learn and grow. We hope they will serve you for
education, examples, connection and pleasure.
This newsletter is intended for the use of friends and members of the
Open Space Institute (US). It may be reproduced in any useful way with
acknowledgement. When copying, please include the author/contact/publication
information at the end of each story.
In This Issue
1--OST and Transformation
2--Accountants in OS: Not So Conservative
3--Open Space Does IT (Again!)
4--The Future of Police Training
OST and Transformation
Suzanne Maxwell, Maxwell and Associates, New Mexico and
Jonathan Reams, Institute for Transformative Leadership, British Columbia
Our story concerns an Open Space Technology event convened as part of the
Institute for Transformative Leadership's conference, "Awakening to
Transformation," held in Nelson, British Columbia. The Institute's
four principles are Jonathan Reams, Jonathan Taylor, Keri Dickie-Clark
and Patrick Quinn-Young, The Open Space consultant is Suzanne Maxwell,
Maxwell & Associates and ProcessWorks, Placitas, New Mexico.
Our story is presented in the form of a Dialogue between Jonathan and
Early last spring, I was searching for someone to add to our list of
presenters for a conference on business and consciousness, and saw
Suzanne's smiling face on a web page that also described her as someone
who did OST. I had read bits and pieces about OST, and was interested in
talking about new processes that could be used in business. So I called
her up, and of course we talked about process in general much more than
anything specific. I asked if she was interested in participating. She
was, but said to me that it was difficult to talk about OST. It was much
better to do it.
There was something about Jonathan's way of talking about what he wanted
to do that attracted me. There seemed to be a depth of understanding
beyond his descriptions of his experience. He spoke of an Institute,
newly forming in Nelson, British Columbia, whose birth came about
following Jonathan and Patrick's involvement with a group that brought
the community together to address potential Y2K issues. The numbers of
participants in the Y2K gathering were extraordinary! In a population
of only 9000 they had attracted 420 people. As he talked about their
experience in doing this, and the subsequent formation of the Institute,
it seemed that they, an organizing group of 4, were following their
inner voices more than they were driving a process. They felt called to
do what they were doing.
Suzanne presents us in such a good light :-) We also see it as a case of
fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Our naiveté allowed us to try
something audacious, and we dreamed no small dreams. Anyway, after some
conversation with my colleagues, we decided to have the closing day of
our conference use OST. We rationalized it by saying we couldn't
possibly know ahead of time all the things people would actually want
and need to talk about. So we plunged ahead unknowingly, trusting that
the process would meet our needs.
When Jonathan first called me, we talked about my doing a keynote
presentation on Dialogue and one on Open Space Technology. As all of
you know, talking about either one of these, simply misses the mark.
Jonathan and his collaborators took to heart what I said about the doing
versus the talking.
As I spoke further with Suzanne, I became aware of how our fledgling
Institute for Transformative Leadership could use the OST day to ground our future
activities. We would make the general theme of the OST day "what now"
for the Institute. We had put out in our flyers that this conference was
to be the "grand opening" so to speak of the Institute, and that it would in
some ways set the future direction of our activities. So this broad theme
was chosen, and left to sit as the press of details and organizing the event
kept our attention elsewhere.
As we continued the conversation over the course of the planning
process, we kept the focus for the Open Space process purposefully
open-ended. We did this to allow us to really home in on what was
unfolding at the conference. The conference was named "Awakening to
Transformation - Emerging Consciousness and the New Economy." Other
keynoters included such scholarly thinkers, writers, or businessmen as;
Richard Barrett, former values coordinator for the World Bank, author
of Liberating the Corporate Soul, Robert Forman of The Forge Institute,
author of Grassroots Spirituality - What it is. Why it is here. Where it
is going. Amit Goswami, a quantum physicist with The Institute of Noetic
Sciences and author of The Self Aware Universe. How Consciousness
Creates the Material World, and Charles Tart, noted researcher of
altered states of consciousness and author of Waking Up, and Living the
Mindful Life, not to mention a host of other presenters whose work
represented cutting edge thinking. With this kind of gathering in the
room, and with the kind of conference attendees such a gathering was
bound to attract, to not put such processes as Open Space (and Dialogue)
to work seemed unthinkable to me. Both are designed to help bring about
coherence within a system, to assist people in learning from each other,
and to maximize the blessings of diversity represented by those present.
Jonathan and his collaborators said "Yes." We would intersperse the
formal presentations with Dialogue and culminate the conference in Open
Space Technology, all with the intention of finding guidance and
direction for the fledgling Institute for Transformative Leadership.
By, what I would call, a stroke of genius, our four organizers planned a
pre conference day for themselves, the keynoters and the presenters to
get to know one another and perhaps to begin the process of our
cohering, and making meaning with our presentations and with their
leadership in the conference structure. They were looking for a unified
message rather than a series of "talking heads."
What Suzanne calls genius was really just our desire to have fun for a
day! We couldn't have done any of this if we weren't going to have fun doing
Play and information and food and dialogue were the soup's ingredients
for that day. Coherence was begun. As the conference proceeded it was
clear to me at least, that the day together was paying off. There was a
unity of what was being said, a synchronicity.
As the days of the conference arrived, within the unity and community
forming, I began to feel pressure to bring closure to the openness created
by the use of OST on the last day. People were uncertain that it was the best
use of time, especially considering the keynote presenters time. Others
wanted me to take "leadership" and give people direction for the day.
The evening before the OST day, a group of us organizers and some of the
presenters spent a couple hours struggling with how to frame the day in
a way that would make best use of the potential that we sensed was at
hand. We came up with an opening of us storytelling to frame the day.
Meanwhile Suzanne was off preparing herself to hold the space for the
day, taking the responsibility for that from me so that I could
participate in a more direct way.
On the morning we were to enter Open Space, Jonathan and I talked about his
experience of the night before and he shared his impressions of what he
and the group wanted to use as the focus question. The question would be
"Now What?"from both the perspectives of the participants in thinking as to
how they would apply what had emerged from them at the conference and also
how the Institute might play a role and uncover it's next steps.
We used a classic OST process, with the final product being hand-written
"Session Reports" as we weren't able to access lap-tops. The focus
question of "Now What?" was posed after the four organizers set the tone
for what the Institute hoped for in the process. Some convenors focused
on topics of interest to them and some focused on the Institute. The
response rate was delightfully higher than I generally experience, more
than 20% of the total attendance. We had to quickly make more paper for
postings and encourage people to be creative with breakout space. Things
The morning of the day, I was palpably aware of the tensions,
expectations and energy infusing the event. As I and my colleagues told
the story of who we were and our struggle to manifest this event, the
stage was set, and we opened the future of the Institute up for input.
There was a flurry of activity as Suzanne opened up the marketplace for
business, and people came forward with ideas for sessions, some around
their interests, and some focussed specifically on our needs. Then there
was a period of quiet, as the initial burst of activity waned. For a while
people came forward one at a time to express their ideas for a session,
and the tone shifted slightly. Then one person, who had come to play
music for us and then stayed on participate in the rest of the
conference, came forward to propose an "Enlightenment University."
As his session was convened, a few of us showed up and waited to see if
more people would drift in. I went off to another session focussed on
ways to help the Institute get going, and afterwards, heard tales of
excitement and vision about this possibility. The group had kept
growing, attracting bodies and energy from all over the space we were
meeting in. Enthusiasm had built to quite a high pitch, and people were
taking this idea seriously.
Being preoccupied with things that were in line with my expectations, I
was skeptical of this idea. It appeared to be very idealistic,
ungrounded and impractical. Yet there it was. It has a life of its own
in a sense, and our opportunity is to be the mid wives. The seriousness
of support was made tangible by monetary donations, and the idea has
caught hold for more and more people, generating more support and
enthusiasm beyond what we could have imagined. It continues to grow, and
catch us up in its wake. The possibilities are enormous, and the future
For myself, taking part in Open Spaces for the first time as a way to
launch an Institute was an incredible learning experience. Holding the
space to resist the tension to bring premature closure was intense, and
revealed much about human nature. My own interest in consciousness
studies framed this experience as well, and having a quantum physicist
present opened up depths of understanding of the mechanics of "holding
space." One's ability to sustain unknowingness about outcomes
contributes directly to allowing the waves of potentiality to grow. This
is not just a nice metaphor, but a quantum mechanical description of how
our consciousness constructs the space in which our reality manifests.
It illuminated for me the spiritual nature of this process, as it is our
heart's ability to be the ground of our being and intentionality in the
world that can counteract the mind's inherent need to "know" and bring
closure to reality. It also allows us to surrender our mind's attempts
to control the universe, and for us to trust that indeed the universe is
a friendly place.
Some who attended are still questioning the wisdom of using OST and others
are praising its virtues. An online conversation among all the
presenters has ensued to keep the learning process going. At its core,
the institute is about fostering profound learning, and the activities
that support this individually and in community. And so the Institute is
being born, with a project exceeding it's expectations, ripe with
The Institute will be hosting Richard Barrett's Corporate Transformation
Models and Tools workshop November 3-5. January 24-26, we will host
Suzanne Maxwell doing an OST training session, and in mid August we will
have our next major conference!
Suzanne Maxwell email@example.com, Jonathan Reams Jonathan@Reams.com
for STORIES, the Newsletter of the Open Space Institute (US) firstname.lastname@example.org
Accountants in OS: Not So Conservative
Dee Green, TOP Performers Leadership Center, Australia
Here is a very short story about a recent OS I ran here in OZ. What I found
really interesting was that usually accountants over here are very
conservative, so I was quite surprised when they agreed to squeeze in the OS
at such an inconvenient time for them.
However they were truly amazed at the info that emerged and also that they
could introduce new ideas to staff they rarely discuss business matters with
such as admin staff. I know they will run with a lot of the actions they
set up in the strategy session, and hopefully develop rapidly.
What is the future pathway for the company in the new millennium and how can
we make sure everyone in the company is on the pathway together?
Open Space followed by a strategy session - after convergence.
A young, fast-growing entrepreneurial accountancy - 12 people. The average
age of the partners was 32 and the accountants working for them averaged age
Limited time allowance due to commitments at end of financial year,
I day only. Although the company was under pressure to deliver accounts for
tax purposes all three partners agreed to act with this event within one
week of briefing.
The Partners wanted new products that would add value and grow the company
direction, to be seeded and accepted by the staff. Also to have an
indication of those staff willing to be responsible for pushing the company forward
with new and innovative ideas.
It was a perfect situation for Open Space Technology. I convinced them to
trust the process and they would get their results and more. I was
recommended to the company by a previous client, although I had not run an
Open Space for them.
The Rest of the Story
The OS was very successful with the usual pattern of people being hesitant
at first, then really into it by the second session. The data captured was most
relevant to the topic. Staff enjoyed the process and having their opinions
valued by the Partners. The Partners participated whole heartedly and were
able to see the benefits of the information the staff provided.
The new ideas for company development were accepted and ways to introduce
these into the company were discussed in great detail.
Through the process the staff and the Partners realised that their
communications with each other at the workplace was not good. New systems
were suggested for meetings and workflow.
After convergence, strategies and implementation of the various topics
arising from OS discussions were developed and recorded. The Partners and
the staff worked as one group and various people drove the sessions.
The experience was enjoyed and of great benefit to the company. All
realising that everyone was responsible and accountable through personal committment
and hard work for the success of the company in the coming millennium.
Dee Green email@example.com
for STORIES, the Newsletter of the Open Space Institute firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Space Does IT (Again!)
Christine Roess, Consultant, United States
In response to a client's interest in offering an innovative leadership
event for his team, I facilitated an Open Space last spring which, typical of Open
Space, was a great success.
The client is the Chief Information Officer for a billion dollar specialty
chemicals company in New Jersey. He was bringing together his
internationally dispersed team for a three day event to support them in
their leadership, as well as create team goals and team spirit. He recognized its
importance and the difficulty of doing something that really made a
difference with people who had such little time together.
I told him about Open Space at a coaching session we had and then I kind of
forgot about it. When I returned several weeks later, I truly didn't know
what he was talking about when he said, "Okay, I want to go ahead with it."
I said, "Go ahead with what?"
It was a pretty much "by the book" Open Space. I have facilitated about 10
or 12 different events and, personally, lean heavily toward Harrison's
original design. About the only difference is that I add a "Commitments"
section to the session reports.
The topic that the client created for this Open Space was "Leveraging the IT
Investment". Cost cutting was their very strong current mandate and, while
always like to go for very "out there" kinds of topics-my client and his
direct reports were very on-board for this highly relevant subject.
We had 33 participants. It was held in a hotel just outside of New York
City. It occurred over 2 days.
They got the agenda up faster than any group I've ever been involved with.
My client stood with me and a couple of his senior managers looking at the
sessions that had been created and agreed that, if they had arranged the
agenda they would have had about 1/3 as many items and they felt that every
one posted was extremely pertinent to the topic.
The 2 days floated by in typical relaxed, productive, light-hearted Open
Space style. On the morning of the third day, we came together in our
completion circle. Person after person said that they had come in highly
skeptical and left a "believer". One manager said, with mutters of
agreement around the room, that usually he was exhausted by the end of the first day
and dragged through the remaining meetings, but this time he was as fresh
now, at the conclusion, as he was in the beginning.
The following is a quote from the letter I received from my client about a
month after the event.
"I would like to compliment you for the excellent facilitation of our Global
IT Conference. The "open space" meeting format was the driving force
our most successful meeting. The participants were pleased with the
opportunity to help create the agenda and to participate in the topics that
added the most value to them. Attendees of the conference felt as if they
owned the meeting and its related outcomes.
Thanks again for exposing me to this format which enabled me to empower my
staff to drive a great meeting."
I was, of course, delighted. It's so easy for everyone to win in Open
Christine Roess CRoess2000
for STORIES, the Newsletter of the Open Space Institute (US) email@example.com
The Future of Police Training
Martin Leith, Consultant, United Kingdom
A two day Open Space conference sponsored by National Police Training
(NPT) and held in Warwick, United Kingdom, on August 23 and 24, 1999. It
was co-designed and facilitated by Martin Leith
(http://www.martinleith.com), an innovation consultant who has been
working with Open Space Technology since the late 1980s.
The Home Office, of which NPT is part, is required to advise the Home
Secretary on how to respond to the Home Affairs Select Committee report
on the future of training in the British police service. The publication
of this report coincided with the publication of a number of other
reports covering the subject of police training, such as those written
by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Police Federation and
Sir William Stubbs. NPT decided to hold the conference to solicit the
views of their customers: the police forces in England and Wales. Police
officers and civil servants from most police forces took part in the
conference, together with members of related organisations such as the
Association of Police Authorities.
The conference used a textbook Open Space process, topped and tailed
with small group work. There were two one-hour periods of Open Space
each day. Alogether there were 23 sessions: 15 on the first day and
eight on day two.
The report of the conference is summarised in a poem which was written
by WPC Andrea Sakinah Reynolds, one of the 120 participants. She wrote
it towards the end of the conference and was invited to recite it at the
end of the closing session. It is reproduced here with her permission.
OPEN SPACE TECHNOLOGY
By WPC Andrea Sakinah Reynolds 3555
West Midlands Police and National Black Police Association Executive
24 August 1999
Yes! The space was 'OPEN'
Opened really wide
Faces looked at faces
Expressions tried to hide
What on earth was this?
And who has thought it up?
Disgruntled and abrupt
Open Space technology
Was certainly diverse
It was not in tradition
And could not be reversed
We really want didactic
Tell us the answers now
Does anybody in the room
Know what, or when, or how?
The future of training hanging
Death by Mr Stubbs (1)
No handling with kid gloves
The questions were just pouring
As debates were introduced
Was Open Space, the process,
There was one thing most obvious
The answers were all here
But what was missing was the bus
To drive them all up there
To the present Home Secretary
For actions now to take
To drive all British 'forces'
To shake training wide awake!
Can NPT petition?
No they aren't the one
Whose argument is accepted
When all this hard work is done
There is the Training Council
With motives of their own
So they will not be driving
All our issues home
Then there are associations
ACPO, APA (2)
And all the other unknown ones
We heard of in the day
The Open Space as process
Seemed a diverse hell
But surely all the issues are clear
We've all done very well!
So my dear Home Secretary
This you ought to do
Get a VISION for the Service
So that Training gets one too
Think about the standards
Competence and all
Think of Structures, open markets
Keep all 'on the ball'!
Don't say that this is complex Sir
You have the answers there
Just be the committed engine
To drive the change in training here!
(1) Sir William Stubbs, an advisor to the Home Secratary
(2) ACPO (pronounced Ackpoe) is the Association of Chief Police
Officers. APA is the Association of Police Authorities.
Copyright (c) Andrea Reynolds 1998. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced without prior consent of
The exception being quotations used in analytic reviews and articles.
The right of Andrea Reynolds to be identified as the author of this work
has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988.
For more information about the planning, design and facilitation of this
conference, please send an email to Martin Leith: firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Leith email@example.com
for STORIES, the Newsletter of the Open Space Institute (US) firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the upcoming OS events:
Open Space onOpen Space VII
Sept. 25 -27
A gathering for experienced OS practitioners.
Contacts: Sheila Isakson at email@example.com or Michael Herman at
World-wide Open Space
Join a discussion on growing the OS organizations around the world
immediately following OSonOS VII.
Details at www.globalchicago.net/osonos/
Growing Our Now, A Journey in Open Space
near Birmingham, Alabama
Beyond Our Times, more details at www.openspaceworld.org
Contact: Barry Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-356-2888
Facilitators: Harrison Owen and Barry Owen
Here are the upcoming trainings:
Contact: Tom Thiss at 612-474-5172
Facilitators: Harrison Owen and Tom Thiss
Contact: Birgitt Bolton at email@example.com or 905-648-5775
Facilitators: Harrison Owen and Birgitt Bolton
New York, NY
Contact: Karen Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-595-9107
Facilitators: Harrison Owen and Karen Davis
Feb 22 - 26, 2000
Berlin, Germany - Training in German.
Contact: Michael Pannwitz at www.we-open-spaces.de
Facilitators: Gabriela Ender and Michael Pannwitz
Contact: Michael Herman at email@example.com
Facilitators: Harrison Owen and Michael Herman
STORIES is published online 3-4 times a year by the Open Space Institute
To subscribe, or to join OSI, contact Peggy Holman, firstname.lastname@example.org
To submit your story, contact Joelle Everett, editor, email@example.com