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  • Dean Williamson

Experience virtual open spaces: Australia and New Zealand

Updated: May 11, 2022

I say often that our transformation work is mostly a series of a million tiny things. We stack them up and up and up until things are meaningfully different, and stay changed (hopefully forever).

One of these changes towards self-managing/organising systems is moving meetings from a place of theatre and control ("the boss/manager(s) speak, the subordinates listen and execute") to a place where diversity, emotions and emergence are invited. As a practice, something like an Open Space is a good way to get your reps up for tolerating the uncertainty that comes with these less-controlling moves.

What is an Open Space?

a virtual open space for meetings

The idea of an Open Space is easy. Imagine an empty room with a topic posted on the door. People walking past who are interested in discussing and learning about that topic enter through the door, and they have a discussion. Some will have lots of experience, some may be beginners while others experts. Some may observe, while others may lead or facilitate.

There are also some rules which govern Open Spaces:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people

  2. Whenever it starts is the right time

  3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened

  4. When it's over, it's over...

There's also the law that you have to "use your feet" - which is that if you're not contributing, or not getting value, then you need to move on to another conversation (such as to a break-out room).

For me, the "why" of this is obvious. The discussion will likely be interesting and helpful for many of them. I think this is multiplied for virtual Space, where you can gather people globally around a topic.

However, its value rests on some mindsets

I have a theory that Australians, despite our anti-authoritarian background, are fairly concrete people. We like agendas, and knowing "why we're turning up". I really connect with this great Forbes article about mindsets which are bringing about the future of work, as acceptance of Open Space relies on abundance (over scarcity), collective (over individual), interconnected (over individual), and reflection (over action). Open Space requires that you can tolerate uncertainty, that you can trust in others to bring value to the conversation, and trust that you can trust yourself to find value in something that is amorphous in nature. It also requires a developing comfort in honesty - that I can leave when I'm not getting value, that I won't offend others, and that I can't be offended when they leave.

Why are we bringing this to Australia?

I'm just going to say it - Australian aren't that good at Open Space. We like "concrete" things, and we struggle with emotions, like the possibility of causing offence.

For the last 3 months a global team (including Dean as a circle coach) has been working to bring this event to life. On Friday 13th May at 9am-1:30pm, Izzy from Human Systems Co. will be facilitating the Pacific component of the 24 Hour Global Open Space - called Circle C. There's also Circle D immediately following, from 1:30pm, which will let you engage with a cohort aimed mostly at Asia. We think the brave Australian/New Zealand cohort who jump in will find it valuable.

What will happen? Who knows. I know that we'll definitely be discussing the Future of Work in some way for four hours. This tests my capability as an emergence facilitator. And if you're thinking - "well why would I turn up?", you already have the chance to shift out of a scarcity mindset. Australia has a saying: "You've gotta be in it to win it". Move towards the opportunities - What if you end up in a 1-on-1 conversation with a world-leader? It could as easily be your next business partner or change consultant. It could also be the opportunity for you to learn or practice a new skill - leaving a conversation well, or trusting in others to not be offended.

If you're interested in finding out more - get in contact!

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