Open Space Technology
Open Space Technology (OST) is a novel technique to conduct a group meeting, retreat or conference from 5 to 1,000 participants. Advanced by Harrison Owen, OST is appropriate in any situation where there is a real, pressing business issue marked by high levels of:
- Complexity, in terms of the issues to be resolved
- Diversity in terms of the numbers and talents of people needed to solve the issue
- Actual or potential conflict and/or passion about the topic
- Stakeholder involvement throughout the organization needed to implement solutions
- Uncertainty in the “answer” or solution
- Urgency in that answers and actions are needed as soon as possible.
The entire system is collaboratively engaged in the process, inspiring energy, commitment and shared leadership. Participants are more creative and innovative in their approaches and they accept responsibility for what does (or does not) happen in the room. Communication is self-managed and connections are forged and reinforced for continued action and communication, even after the event.
Specifically, by the conclusion of an OST gathering,
- Every issue of concern to any participant is identified and recognized by the group
- All issues are discussed to the extent that anyone cares to engage in a conversation
- A full written record of all discussions is created and in the hands of the participants prior to the conclusion of the event
- All issues are ranked in priority order
- Critical issues are identified and next steps/actions identified for resolution
- People are creative, synergistic and self-motivated. (BTW, if this type of behavior is not desired during the event and beyond, OST is not for you or the organization!)
- There is a concrete, business issue of passionate concern to those who will be involved.
- Keep it simple (KISS). OST is an “organic” approach to group dynamics. Where many meetings are about control, OST assumes that people will (and they never let us down) self-manage their activities, given a few guidelines.
There are no one-size-fits-all meeting plans here. Kristin uses a 4-step process to create and facilitate meetings that are customized to your outcomes, company culture, and the players involved.
1. Get Ready
Kristin talks with the meeting sponsor and gets crystal clear on the objectives. She’ll help you turn your general ideas into targeted deliverables.
2. Design the Meeting
In designing a meeting, Kristin’s goal is to truly “step into the shoes” of the people involved. She goes to great lengths to understand your company’s issues, culture, and unique challenges.
Before the meeting even begins, Kristin solicits the ideas of meeting attendees to discover areas of agreement—and where they don’t agree. She deploys a variety of tools and techniques to gather data, including attendee interviews and Web-based surveys.
The result? A meeting uniquely tailored to your group, that engages participants and gets your goals accomplished.
3. Facilitate the Meeting
Kristin guides the conversation and keep things high-energy and on track. During the meeting, she captures action steps as they arise. At the end, she confirms any agreed-upon action items that need to be done, and who is accountable for them.
4. Follow Up
Your meeting is only as good as the actions that come from it. Kristin ensures there’s a structure in place so you can maintain momentum. She’ll evaluate the session with you to create next steps.
Thank you so much for leading us through a complex path forward. You have truly made a difference for our strategic direction.
Cindy Lee, Associate Director, NASA Langley Research Center