Picture a meeting with no keynote speakers, no pre-announced workshop schedules, and no panel discussions. Instead, participants organize themselves in a circle and talk about … what they want to talk about.
The Open Space Meeting, developed in the mid-1980s by Harrison Own, an organizational consultant, is still popular for corporate retreats. It allows managers to initiate their own discussions about topics of interest (which they do by writing their ideas on big sheets of paper posted on the wall), and others to sign up for these “sessions.” When everyone is done posting and signing up, it's time for the meeting to begin.
There are four key principles to Open Space Meetings:
Whoever comes, those are the right people.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Whenever it starts is the right time.
When it is over, it is over.
Why has something so simple been so successful for so long? Birgitt Williams, an Open Space Technology consultant (www.dalarinternational.com), says it's because this method is in sync with the organic nature of organizations. “It creates the conditions for the highest potential of the people to show up and be of benefit to the organization. Most meeting methods work against the organic nature of an organization.”