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Open Space Technology

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Title: "Open Spaces, Boundless Possibilities"

Open Space Technology (OST) is a highly effective and flexible facilitation method developed by Harrison Owen in the mid-1980s. It's born out of the recognition that the most productive parts of conferences were the coffee breaks. In a world that's becoming increasingly complex and interdependent, the method's relevance has never been more pronounced. The essence of OST revolves around organizing meetings in an "open space" that encourages spontaneous, self-organized interactions, and rich discussions among participants. This method is deeply rooted in the belief that the collective wisdom of a group is far superior to a centrally orchestrated approach. The operational model of OST is simple yet profound. It's about setting a broad theme, creating a marketplace of ideas, and then letting participants self-organize around topics they are passionate about. As you venture into the depths of this guide, you'll uncover the intricacies of OST, its profound impact on fostering innovation, collaboration, and high-level engagement in various settings.


  • Unleashing Creativity: OST provides a fertile ground for the germination of innovative ideas by removing structural constraints.

  • Fostering Engagement: The participant-driven nature of OST promotes a high level of engagement and ownership.

  • Cross-Pollination of Ideas: The fluid, self-organized interactions lead to a cross-pollination of ideas, fostering holistic solutions.

  • Community Building: Through shared exploration, OST helps in knitting a fabric of community among participants.

  • Accelerated Decision Making: It facilitates accelerated decision-making by tapping into the collective wisdom of the group.

When to use

  • Complex Issues: OST shines in scenarios where the issues at hand are complex and there are diverse opinions on how to approach them.

  • Strategic Planning: It's highly effective for strategic planning, where inclusive input and creativity are desired.

  • Problem-Solving: OST is a go-to method for tackling problems requiring multi-dimensional solutions.

  • Community Engagement: Whenever there's a need for community engagement and collective decision-making, OST is a highly suitable method.

Case Examples

  1. Healthcare: Innovating for Patient-Centric Care

Title: "Harmonizing Care: Unveiling Collaborative Solutions in Healthcare"

A healthcare organization grappling with improving patient-centric care employed OST to engage all stakeholders in a series of discussions. The open space unleashed a torrent of insights and ideas, leading to a co-created blueprint for transforming their care delivery model, ultimately enhancing patient satisfaction and care quality.

  1. Technology: Navigating the Digital Transformation Maze

Title: "Tech-Space Confluence: Steering Digital Transformation"

In a tech firm, navigating the turbulent waters of digital transformation was proving to be a daunting task. Employing OST, they created a platform for cross-functional dialogue, leading to a well-rounded strategy that was both innovative and inclusive, driving successful digital transformation.

  1. Non-Profit: Engaging Communities for Sustainable Development

Title: "Community Confluence: Charting a Sustainable Path"

A non-profit aiming at sustainable community development utilized OST to engage the local communities. The discussions unearthed local wisdom and fostered a strong sense of ownership, leading to sustainable, community-driven development initiatives.

How to introduce Open Space Technology

Introducing OST necessitates a shift from traditional, controlled meeting structures to a more open, self-organized format. Here's how you can introduce OST:

  1. Awareness Sessions: Hold sessions to explain the principles and process of OST, emphasizing the benefits and the shift in mindset required.

  2. Demonstration: Conduct a small-scale OST event to provide a practical feel of the process.

  3. Guidance: Provide clear guidelines on how to propose topics, participate in discussions, and how the documentation will be handled.

  4. Support: Offer ongoing support to address any concerns and help individuals adapt to this new method of interaction.

Sample Introduction Script

"Welcome to this unique gathering, where we are about to embark on a journey of exploration, discovery, and co-creation through Open Space Technology. As we step into this open space, we're leaving behind the traditional structures of meetings and embracing a participant-driven, self-organized format. This is an invitation to tap into our collective wisdom, share your burning issues, and explore solutions together. The agenda is ours to create, and the solutions are ours to discover. So, let's step into this space with curiosity, openness, and the readiness to engage in meaningful dialogues that drive actionable outcomes."

Helpful Facilitator Questions

  1. What topics or issues are you most passionate about discussing?

  2. How can you contribute to the discussions and the overall theme?

  3. What actions or initiatives would you like to see emerging from this open space?

  4. How can we ensure that diverse perspectives are heard and valued?

  5. What follow-up actions will help in maintaining the momentum generated in this open space?

Challenges you may Face

Introducing OST might be met with skepticism or resistance due to its unconventional approach. Here's how you can navigate through:

  1. Resistance: Address resistance by explaining the benefits and showcasing successful examples of OST.

  2. Orientation: Provide clear guidelines and a solid orientation to help participants transition into this new format comfortably.

  3. Documentation: Ensure thorough documentation of discussions and outcomes to demonstrate the value generated through OST.

Related Theories

  1. Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS): OST resonates with the principles of CAS by acknowledging the inherent complexity and dynamism of organizational issues.

  2. Self-Organization Theory: The core of OST lies in self-organization, a principle that's well articulated in this theory.

  3. Participatory Action Research (PAR): OST aligns with the collaborative inquiry and action orientation of PAR, emphasizing collective exploration and decision-making.


  1. How has engaging with OST shifted your perspective on addressing complex issues?

  2. What insights have you gained regarding the power of self-organization and collective wisdom?

  3. How can the principles of OST be incorporated into your daily interactions and organizational processes?


  1. What are the long-term impacts of employing OST on organizational culture and effectiveness?

  2. How does the level of participant diversity influence the outcomes of OST sessions?

  3. What strategies can enhance the effectiveness and impact of OST in various settings?


  1. "Open Space Technology: A User's Guide" by Harrison Owen: This book is a comprehensive guide by the creator of OST, providing in-depth insights into the method.

  2. "The Tao of Holding Space: Facilitating Open Space with Heart" by Chris Corrigan: Corrigan delves into the essence of holding space in OST, enriching the reader's understanding and capability to facilitate OST sessions.

  3. "Inviting Leadership: Invitation-Based Change in the New World of Work" by Daniel Mezick: Although not exclusively on OST, this book explores invitation-based change methods, offering a broader understanding of participatory organizational change approaches.


Open Space Technology stands as a beacon of hope in a world grappling with complex challenges. Its essence of fostering self-organization, collective wisdom, and innovative solutions holds the promise of navigating through the complexities with a sense of empowerment and shared purpose. Through this guide, you have traversed the realms of OST, uncovering its principles, delving into its application, and exploring its profound impact. Now, as you step into the open spaces of possibilities, you are equipped with the understanding and the tools to drive meaningful dialogues and actionable outcomes. Your journey with OST is a step towards creating a culture of openness, collaboration, and innovation, ushering in a horizon of boundless possibilities.

OD Application

Optimizing Organizational Change with Open Space Technology

Open Space Technology (OST) is more than just a method; it's an embodiment of the belief that individuals have the intrinsic capacity and wisdom to confront complex issues, given the right environment. At its core, OST is about harnessing the collective intelligence and creativity of a group, enabling them to self-organize around pressing challenges. This approach offers organizations a transformative way to approach change, fostering both well-being and prosperity.

Open Space Technology as a Change Intervention

Open Space Technology, pioneered by Harrison Owen, is a facilitation method designed to address complex issues in the shortest possible time. Participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme. This structure promotes engagement, ownership, and action, making it a potent tool for organizational development consultants.

Well-being Impacts:

  1. Organizational Culture: OST fosters a culture of empowerment, collaboration, and mutual respect. By giving individuals the freedom to voice their ideas and concerns, it strengthens the sense of community and shared purpose.

  2. Social Psychology: The open format of OST encourages open dialogue, breaking down barriers and silos. This open communication can lead to increased trust, understanding, and a sense of belonging among members.

  3. Ethical Decision Making: OST, by design, gives voice to every participant, promoting inclusivity and ensuring that decisions are taken with consideration for diverse perspectives and ethical implications.

  4. DE&I: Open Space inherently supports diversity, equity, and inclusion. It offers an even platform for all voices, regardless of rank or background, ensuring that every perspective is valued.

Prosperity Impacts:

  1. Organizational Design: The self-organizing nature of OST can inspire more adaptive and flexible organizational structures, promoting agility and responsiveness.

  2. Organizational Strategy: As OST brings diverse perspectives to the fore, it can provide rich insights that can shape and refine organizational strategy.

  3. Organizational Performance: By addressing and resolving complex challenges collaboratively, OST can lead to improved processes, innovative solutions, and enhanced overall performance.

Guidelines for Determining the Right Fit

For OD consultants considering Open Space Technology:

  1. Assess the Complexity: Is the issue at hand multifaceted, with no clear solution? OST thrives in situations where the way forward isn't predetermined.

  2. Determine Organizational Readiness: Is the organization open to unconventional methods? Are leaders willing to relinquish control and trust the process?

  3. Size of the Group: OST works best with groups ranging from a dozen to over a thousand participants. Consider the scale of your intervention.

Presenting Challenges Indicating the Approach's Suitability

  1. Stagnation and Lack of Innovation: If an organization feels stuck or struggles with innovation, OST can ignite fresh thinking and new directions.

  2. Interdepartmental Conflicts: OST can break down silos, allowing departments to understand each other's perspectives and collaborate better.

  3. Lack of Engagement: If there's a sense of detachment or lack of ownership among employees, OST can rekindle engagement and passion.

Tailoring and Facilitating for Sustainable Change

  1. Setting the Stage: Clearly articulate the central theme or challenge. Ensure that participants understand the purpose and potential of OST.

  2. Trust the Process: As a facilitator, resist the urge to steer or control. Trust in the collective wisdom of the group.

  3. Encourage Documentation: Ensure that insights, discussions, and action points from each session are documented for future reference and action.

Observing Impact at Various Levels

  1. Individual Level: Participants should feel a renewed sense of engagement, ownership, and empowerment post the OST session.

  2. Team Level: Teams should exhibit heightened collaboration, understanding, and alignment towards common goals.

  3. Organizational Level: The organization should witness innovative solutions to challenges, improved inter-departmental collaboration, and enhanced strategic alignment.

In the vibrant sphere of organizational development, Open Space Technology emerges as a beacon of democratic, inclusive, and innovative problem-solving. It recognizes and celebrates the innate wisdom of the collective, moving away from top-down directives to grassroots, collaborative solutions. The beauty of OST lies in its simplicity and its faith in the participants' ability to steer their ship through turbulent waters. For organizations willing to embrace this approach, the rewards are manifold: a cohesive, engaged workforce, innovative solutions to complex challenges, and a path that leads to both well-being and prosperity. As the world grapples with unprecedented challenges, the principles of OST—openness, trust, and collective wisdom—hold the key to crafting a resilient, inclusive, and prosperous future.

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