flowing motion

Open Space Technology increased productivity 3x to 10x

Posted on: April 21, 2010

The people who came are the right people.

Whatever happens was the only things that could have happened.

Whenever it starts is the right time.

When it is over, it is over.

Open Space Technology

I first heard of Open Space Technology back in the 90’s ~ in Africa.  Yes!

Open Space Technology & Myers-Briggs

Open Space is a challenge to we ++++J types.   We are schedulers.  We want things to be right.

+++P types live like this anyway.   Schedules make their eyes glaze over.  They like to be curious and love situations where we don’t know what will unfold.

The West is generally (though not exclusively) +++J.  We value schedules.   Even when we laugh at Open Space Technology, we secretly believe it is “wrong”.

That is burden we place on ourselves.  We put in a lot of effort to deciding what is right or wrong, rather than what is.

Modern Organization Theory

Modern organization theory (in the west) is moving more and more towards open space ideas.

We hold conferences in London with the loosest of schedules.  Someone puts a sign up sheet online, organizes a venue, and provides some basic kitchen facilities.  People sign up online and pitch up.

Imagine, if you will, going to a conference in a smart part of London, dodging riot police because Tony Blair is talking about Iraq around the corner, showing up late (courtesy of the M1) and staying till 8 during which time people who didn’t know each other before they arrived but done the equivalent of 8 dissertations (all except the write up).

With minimal organization, people learn as much as they would in 6 months in a university.  Moral hazard is avoided as people fund their own basics.  No one overeats. No one gets drunk.

What is, is.  And the economic impact is enormous.

Is all Open Space Technology productive?

No it isn’t.  Sometimes I attend something which clearly does not speak to me.

But that happens far less with unconferences than with conventional formats.  Conventional formats are also far more expensive.  People stay because they have a “day off” or have to fill in a “CPD”.  They are bored.  They eat too much bad food. They get drunk.  They learn little.  They create nothing.

Can we all work in Open Space Format?

I think it is a shock to people who are not used to “being answered back”.   If I have worked long and hard to be a Professor, I take it as my due to drone on for an hour and have a few hundred people sit and (pretend to) listen.  What would I do if I have to grab an empty room, start speaking, and have people to leave when they are bored?  I wouldn’t like it at all.

It is a new game where we work with others.  It is no longer “who we are”; it is how we collaborate with those who were there.  When we have no interest in their story, we will find the event a trial.

The old guard might, I fear, never learn.  People my age repeatedly ask me: what do you get out of it?  The sub-text is why speak to someone if they cannot give you something.  The old guard are so obvious at a meetup, cruising, if not for sexual pickups, then for money.  They are very difficult to speak to as well.

Conversation is a building process.  We put something on the table.  The next person builds upon it.  When someone just wants to take something off the table – what are you supposed to do?  Keep putting things on the table?  I can’t see why that would be interesting.

This “take” mentality only works when there is a third party in the equation.  I am paid (by someone else), for example, to stand there and put tidbits on the table.  People have got into the habit of “not being present” with people in business.

So, yes, open source format might be too much for some old dogs.

Young dogs.  I am sure they need to learn to work in open source format. But they have less to unlearn.  And what they will know, is that it is what they do with me that counts.  If they think the world owes them a living, they may still find a patron who can “supp” them.  They will find it harder and harder, I think.

Today’s working environment requires them to show up, work with whomever is there, and produce something by the end of the day.  To be in the game, they should expect to produce in a day, what an individual used to produce in several months.  Working on a time model of 20% of time on one project, 4-5 months, and 3-8 people on the new team, productivity has just leapt 3x to 10x.

That’s what it is all about.  With a lot less management, angst, & overhead, we can get 3x to 10x more out of life.

The price?  That we work with who and what is there.  With no guarantees.  None.

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1 Response to "Open Space Technology increased productivity 3x to 10x"

Thank you for saying out so loud. I share the same sentiment.

I don’t think it has anything to do with old or young dogs. Just that we are all different dogs. Some like it hot, some just don’t.

I suspect too, there are many just as lost as I am in any open-space meet-up, but keep going because just don’t want to feel ‘different’ from the geeks!

Cindy

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