Virtual specialists

Open Space Technology


Open Space is a self-organising way of facilitating communication/action in large groups of people which supports the inherent creativity and leadership in people. The process requires people to become involved in the solution and therefore deeps understanding of key issues and dramatically increases buy-in and ownership.

Would you like every person in your organisation understanding your strategy, and believing in it with their heart and soul?

It was invented by Harrison Owen who trained Bruce Holland in its use. Harrison's book is called "Open Space Technology A Users Guide".

Bruce finds it a particularly useful way to get the whole organisation involved in 'how the strategy will be implemented.' The alternative is often a 'roadshow' or a 'discussion' led by managers that may help increase the level of understanding of people throughout, but does little to capture their hearts and souls.

How to hold meetings of 20 to 500 people at one time and give everyone a say

Open Space makes great use of sitting in circles and something magic happens as a result. When people arrive they are invited to sit in a large circle of chairs (nothing else) facing each other, with nothing in the middle (this is the open space) and a large blank space of wall behind (the working area). Each person is invited to identify any issue related to the central task for which they have some real passion, write it down and post it on the wall. In so doing they accept responsibility for convening a session on the issue and making a written report of the results. When all the issues are posted on the wall, everyone is invited to stand beside the issue that they want to be part of resolving and taking ownership of. This self-selection means that only people with the appropriate skills, knowledge and passion are involved in each issue. It is also very empowering to be able to decide where you will focus your time and effort. Most of the rest of the time is taken up with people (self selected) working the issue (as in a project) until it is resolved. Each team them reports back to the whole group,

When to use Open Space

  1. When you want people to be intimately involved in a project or strategy so they understand it and own it to a deep level
  2. Where conflict is holding back the ability to change
  3. Where the situation is complex
  4. Where there is a high degree of diversity
  5. Where there is an urgent need to make speedy decisions
  6. Where all stakeholders are needed for good decisions to be made
  7. Where you have no preconceived notion of what the outcomes should be.

Probable outcomes of Open Space

  1. Builds energy, commitment and shared leadership
  2. Participants accept responsibility for what does or doesn't happen
  3. Action plans and recommendations emerge from discussions.
  4. You create a record of the entire proceedings as you go along

How it works

The Law of Two Feet means you take responsibility for what you care about -- standing up for that and using your own two feet to move to whatever place you can best contribute and/or learn.

Four Principles apply to how you navigate in open space

1. Whoever comes are the right people

Whoever is attracted to the same discussion are the people who can contribute most to that discussion because they really care.

2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen

We are all limited by our own pasts and expectations. This principle acknowledges we'll all do our best, in the present time and place.

3. When it starts is the right time

The creative spirit has its own time, and our task is to make our best contribution and enter the flow of creativity when it starts.

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

Creativity has its own rhythm. So do groups.

How Open Space works when there is conflict

Sometimes there are differences in power and authority. Open Space levels the playing field so people who do not normally have an opportunity to talk with each other can meet around their shared passions.

Group size

Open Space accommodates groups from 5 to 500 people. It can be run for a couple of hours to 3 or more days; consecutively or over time; at one site or at multiple sites connected by computer and/or phone and video. The longer it runs, the more learning and depth happens.

How Virtual Group supports Open Space Technology

  1. The usual way we use Open Space is to facilitate large group meetings using the principles of Open Space Technology.
  2. We train facilitators in the principles and practice of Open Space
  3. We document findings of Open Space and work with followup groups to execute their findings.

Product support

This product has been developed and is supported by Bruce Holland with help where required from other members of the Virtual Group Business Specialists. Bruce is a specialist in Open Space Wellington, nationally and internationally. He specialises in public sector organisations and other large private sector organisations.


All work undertaken by Bruce Holland is guaranteed. If at the end of the program the client doesn't feel that they have received value for money, they may adjust the bill and pay an amount equal to the value they feel they received.

Next step

For more information about how you can use our Culture Program give the Virtual Manager a call or ring Bruce Holland direct.

Bruce Holland
Phone +6421 620456
Key words: Leadership, leadership development, leadership management, leadership training, leadership program, leadership skills

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