Open Space Technology

October 9, 2013 5:16 pm Comments

NASA Open Space 2 Innovate 1024x681 Open Space Technology

The 27th of September, 2013 marked the commencement of the flagship event of SOIL, the Inspired Leadership Conference, and continued through the following day. The two days, which were full of learning, saw many industry stalwarts come to the school to engage with the students on various topics revolving around the theme ‘Key to Innovation in Turbulent Times’. One of the major highlights of the conference was the Open Space Technology, convened by the founder, Mr. Anil Sachdev himself. He explained how the entire concept of self-organisation and learning got its name of ‘Open Space Technology’ after the conference on the theme of “The business of business is learning,” which was conducted in Goa, India, in 1989, and continued for three days, spawning three books that were bestsellers.

The four principles of the process are:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people.
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
  4. When it is over it is over.

The law governing the Open Space Technology is the law of two feet – a foot of passion and a foot of responsibility – which teaches you to stand up for what you believe, to use the two feet and to go somewhere else if you feel you are not contributing enough. So the only person responsible for your experience is you.

Having set the theme and the question ‘how do we take responsibility to ignite the genius of innovation in our workplaces, communities and within ourselves to face challenges’, participants were asked to write down that one burning question that mattered to them the most, on a sheet of paper. Thereafter the sheets with questions were taped to the wall, or the ‘market place’. Everyone else was asked to sign on the sheets, choosing a question they were seeking an answer to. Questions like –‘Who am I?’, ‘How do I discover my strengths?’ or ‘Why do we lose innovation while growing up even though born as the most creative beings?’ got people thinking and reflecting. The entire space was buzzing with passion and enthusiasm, with the participants looking forward to the group discussions, hoping that would help them find a way to explore their creativity. The groups were divided and allotted 12 spaces to start with the discussion. It saw the participation of every individual, and brought about collaboration, furthering everyone’s learning. The uniqueness of the conference was that people were not locked in! We could choose to be a bumblebee and cross-pollinate ideas, or could choose to be a butterfly and spend time reflecting on the topic. In open-space, individuality is valued! The first-of-its-kind experience for many, the open-space brought about new ideas and dimensions when people came together and shared their thoughts, where one idea led to another and a healthy discussion created a learning that could not be attained alone!

An intentional leadership practice like this can undoubtedly create inspired organizations, where ordinary people work together to create extraordinary results with consistency. It builds energy, commitment and shared leadership which inspires others.

At the end of the event, we had a reflection circle, wherein people came together, collected their thoughts and shared their reflections and learning that came through the exercise. It was the most powerful aspect of the event as people respectfully witnessed what others had to speak of their experiences about what inspired them!

Harpreet Dhami
HR Leadership Program

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Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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