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On Selling Open Space

I love these words from Harrison Owen, shared recently on the Open Space list serve. It speaks to me to the inner grounding needed to offer such practices. It speaks to the story, the worldview that is already in place beneath the methodology. And it speaks to some of my own distaste for any kind of coercion in using this and other participative process.

I have never tried to “sell” Open Space. The reasons are two. First, when you describe it to anybody who hasn’t “been there” they can’t believe it, won’t believe it, and – worse – are pretty sure that anybody who does “believe it” is more than a little bit “off their rocker” (Americanism for weird, strange, marginally crazy, and such). Not a strong opening position for a “sales” pitch! Bottom line? Don’t bother. As I think I have said ad nauseam, Selling Open Space is not unlike trying to teach a pig to sing. It annoys the pig, and sounds terrible.

And there is an alternative. Just recognize (in your own mind) that these folks (whoever they are…) are already “in” Open Space. They are just doing it badly. Your “offer” is simply to help them to do what they are already doing – but now with some understanding, expertise, and style. Short take: you can help them to remember what they already know, and having remembered, to do everything much better.

Practically – I find that most people really don’t care about the “process.” As Eiwor says – they just want results. So explaining the details of the process, given the liabilities of that explanation (see above), doesn’t make a lot of sense. What you can do is make some promises that I know can be kept. Every issues of concern to anybody will be on the table. All will be discussed. Reports of those discussions will be created. Action groups will/can be formed. Guaranteed! With one major proviso. People care to do that. If nobody cares, nothing will happen. But what else is new?

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