Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, 3rd Edition
By Harrison Owen
Author Harrison Owen is the original developer of the Open Space Technology technique for running a problem-solving meeting. Recently, I have been working with organizations on strategic planning, and as a teacher, I am always striving to make my classes more interactive. That said, I read the book with a lot of interest beyond the basics of how to facilitate an Open Space Technology meeting.
The book opens with an explanation of Open Space Technology, and then it shows the reader how to set up and run such a meeting. Owen’s writing is smooth and easy to read. What I especially like is that he offers general how-tos for managing meetings as well as some very detailed advice, like picking up trash.
The meetings are not planned ahead of time the agenda is set at the beginning by the participants, and the meeting space is set up in an open circle, to show that no one is really in charge and all participants are equal. A meeting leader starts the process and then it is self-rule from there on. This might be intimidating to some autocratic managers, but if input from all is the goal, it is a good process. Owen recommends one to three full days for an exercise of this magnitude, but his teachings are helpful in any meeting setting in which group participation and decisions are desired.
Open Space Technology presents a radical way to get diverse groups together (e.g., 50 Israelis and Palestinians meeting in Italy) to solve problems. In today’s changing world this methodology is a way to think about how that might be accomplished in any situation not just the ones the author describes.