Open Space Technology

Open Space Technology (OST) is a novel technique to conduct a group meeting, retreat or conference from 5 to 1,000 participants. Advanced by Harrison Owen, OST is appropriate in any situation where there is a real, pressing business issue marked by high levels of:

  • Complexity, in terms of the issues to be resolved
  • Diversity in terms of the numbers and talents of people needed to solve the issue
  • Actual or potential conflict and/or passion about the topic
  • Stakeholder involvement throughout the organization needed to implement solutions
  • Uncertainty in the “answer” or solution
  • Urgency in that answers and actions are needed as soon as possible.

The entire system is collaboratively engaged in the process, inspiring energy, commitment and shared leadership. Participants are more creative and innovative in their approaches, and they accept responsibility for what does (or does not) happen in the room. Communication is self-managed, and connections are forged and reinforced for continued action and communication, even after the event.

Specifically, by the conclusion of an OST gathering,

  • Every issue of concern to any participant is identified and recognized by the group
  • All issues are discussed to the extent that anyone cares to engage in a conversation
  • A full written record of all discussions is created and in the hands of the participants prior to the conclusion of the event
  • All issues are ranked in priority order
  • Critical issues are identified and next steps/actions identified for resolution
  • People are creative, synergistic and self-motivated. (BTW, if this type of behavior is not desired during the event and beyond, OST is not for you or the organization!)
  • There is a concrete, business issue of passionate concern to those who will be involved.
  • Keep it simple (KISS). OST is an “organic” approach to group dynamics. Where many meetings are about control, OST assumes that people will (and they never let us down) self-manage their activities, given a few guidelines.

Business Plan Elements

  • Plan Summary
  • The Business
  • Products or Services
  • Market
  • Competition
  • Location of Business
  • Management
  • Legal/Regulatory Issues
  • Personnel
  • Potential Risks and Problems
  • Financial Statements and Projections

Strategic Plan Elements

  • Strategic Analysis
  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Values
  • Critical Issues
  • Strategic Objectives
  • Implementing Strategies
  • Critical Milestones
  • Key Success Factors
  • Financial Projections
  • Executive Summary

More Examples of Facilitated Sessions

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