Open Space Technology

Seth Godin explores a new standard for meetings and conferences and how to justify the increasing cost and time commitment of travel. Face-to-face contact is much more effective than internet-related conferencing tools and Seth hits an important point that we need to address this effectively.

One powerful method Seth missed in his analysis is Open Space Technology.

This weekend, I attended a retreat in Open Space format. The format was developed by Harrison Owen after spending a year organizing a conference, and the feedback he received was, “Nice conference. The speakers were okay, but what we really liked were the coffee breaks.” His solution? To hold a conference comprised entirely of coffee breaks.

From this idea, he developed a powerful style of holding conferences where attendees were responsible for devising and convening sessions at the start of the conference. People then are required to go to sessions they feel drawn to with the understanding that they will leave as soon as they are no longer contributing or receiving any value. The results skyrocketed past anyone’s expectations – a magical environment was created where everyone was engaged.

In a day when effective collaboration is a necessity to justify the cost – Open Space is an alternative I suspect we will be seeing much more of in the future.