P is for passion

July 23rd, 2008

At tonight’s launch of Harrison Owen’s latest version of the Open Space User’s Guide, here in San Francisco, I was reminded of the power of passion.

Harrison spoke for about 20 minutes, to about 150 or so people gathered in (how else?) a circle. He challenged us to take open space and make it better. I’m wondering how something as simple and elegant as open space can be improved – something I may explore over the next few days. Harrison has never claimed ‘ownership’ of open space – he calls it a world process, an ancient approach at being that we rediscovered after all the false starts of managerialism and attempts to control self-organising systems.

I was struck by his comments about being in ‘open space’ – the experience of participating in an open space event and then returning to the ‘real world’. If we acknowledge that the whole world is self-organising, and open space is self-organising in action, then we are always in ‘open space’, 365 days a year – even if we don’t acknowledge it to ourselves.

And I was delighted with his wave metaphor – even though he talked about some local surfing break obviously inferior to the Bells Beach and Winkipop break! His comments about surfers understanding self-organising and knowing that you can only ride a wave, not control it, resonates with WinkiPod.

I was struck – yet again – by Harrison’s passion and enthusiasm. I hope some of it rubs off.

1 Comment so far

  1. Andre Ling on July 24, 2008 4:01 am


    i have also found myself thinking about this question – aren’t we always in a self-organising system? aren’t we always in a kind of open space? And the hypothesis i am pondering is that this is where the idea of hosting oneself (a la art of hosting) comes in… it’s all about whether you can host yourself at a level that allows you to feel that deeper connection to the rest of the system around you…

    my sense is that open space puts you into a complex system with a fairly clear and definable boundary, which sitting in the circle lets you see and it is easy enough to host yourself into it… but not all of our day-to-day interactions let us engage with the whole system in such a clear, bounded way… so how do we get that ‘we’re connected to the whole system’ kind of a feeling? my guess is that it involves learning how to host ourselves at the required level…

    for example, i have been working with an organisation for almost 5 years now and feel so deeply connected to its core that I always feel I am part of a living, evolving dynamic system that is self-organising – and I have been involved in helping to facilitate its own change process which has helped me develop that sense… it makes working here more rewarding and meaningful! in an open-space everyone has to feel that sense of passion and responsibility for making it work… its part of the rules… in an organisation there are other people who seem more accountable – managers, bosses, etc… so the sense of individual responsibility and agency can end up being less… but it’s more about how one looks at it than anything else… by looking at it at the right way, one can host oneself, discover one’s own agency and see how one is part of a big, evolving, self-organising system and then help to shape that organisation itself in meaningful ways…

    would be really great to read what you learn about this from your experience over there!

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