Open Space Technology is a method of facilitating large group discussions and problem-solving sessions in which participants are free to self-organize and collaborate on topics of interest. The approach was developed in the 1980s by Harrison Owen, an organizational development consultant, as a response to traditional conference formats that he found to be overly structured and often ineffective.
The Open Space Technology process typically begins with an invitation for participants to gather in a large meeting room or outdoor space. The facilitator sets the theme or question for the event, and participants then propose topics of discussion related to that theme. Participants are encouraged to lead or attend any sessions they are interested in, and are free to move between sessions as they please.
Open Space Technology relies on the principle of "self-organization" rather than formal facilitation, and encourages participants to take ownership of the process and outcomes. In this way, it fosters collaboration, creativity, and innovation, and can be used to address a wide range of topics, from business strategy to community building to environmental issues.
Open Space Technology Principles:
Whoever comes is the right people: Open Space Technology assumes that whoever shows up is the right person to be there. This principle encourages participants to be open to new perspectives and ideas, and to value the contributions of everyone in the room.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have: This principle encourages participants to be present in the moment and to focus on what is happening right now, rather than worrying about what could have happened or what might happen in the future.
When it starts is the right time: Open Space Technology assumes that discussions will begin when they are meant to, and encourages participants to be patient and open to the timing of events.
When it's over, it's over: This principle acknowledges that discussions have their own natural lifespan, and that it is important to respect the time and energy of all involved by ending discussions when they have run their course.
The law of two feet: This law encourages participants to take responsibility for their own learning and to move between discussions as they see fit. If a participant feels that they are not learning or contributing, they are encouraged to "use their two feet" and move on to something else.