Open Space Realm

Welcome to the CATS3000 Open Space Realm.

Here you’ll find information, resources and inspiration about our approach to open space and emergent change and transformation.

I have been opening space for conversation and action for over twenty years. I have used Open Space Technology in the UK, Ireland, Slovenia, Belgium, Sweden, and the United States, workin with public and private organisations, charities and communities small and large.

Open Space Audio

Audiocasts Audiocast 1 – Why Whatever Happened Might Have Happened Differently – A controversial look at the Open Space principle: Whatever happened is the only thing that could have happened, and why it isn’t true. Listen to Why Whatever Happened Might Have Happened Differently Audiocast 2 – One Less thing to do. Harrison Owen suggests…

Stories of Open Space 8 – Open Space in a Circus Tent

This was a wonderful opportunity to make use of the over-hundred year old Bosco Tent which often travels to festivals around the world with the even more famous Spiegeltent. This was a gathering of the World Fringe Netwrk who invited Fringe Festivals from around the United Kingdom to explore how they might connect and collaborate…

Open Space Technology Explained in Detail

… that’s it. Open Space is a method founded in a circle of people, who come together to self-organise a conversation about something they want to get to work together to explore and take action.  

Stories of Open Space 7 – Flash Mob Open Space

This is an account of a recent 3-hour gathering of Conscious Business UK in London, UK. I was the facilitator of the event though aspects of the design of the session were not entirely in my hands. A speaker over-ran by nearly thirty minutes and participants looked tired. It was very interesting content and a…

Stories of Open Space

                    These are the real stories that light up open space. The stories here are of how open space isn’t a fixed process. These stories demonstrate that even open space technology itself can and should be adapted to the emerging needs of the moment. Stories of…

Stories of Open Space 6

This is a story of very informal, almost “pop-up” Open Space. A community who are interested in the topic of “innovation” are invited to an Innovation Conversation (View the invites here and here and here). They aren’t told they are coming to an event that includes Open Space. It’s just a conversation in a cafe. The format…

What is Open Space ?

Open Space usually refers to a method of meeting and getting things done called Open Space Technology. Open Space can also refer to any approach that “opens space” for something possible to happen, for some potential to be realised. It suggests that a situation may be restricted by too much control and structure, limiting the…

Exploring the Principles: When it’s over, it’s over

This is my personal favorite principle of open space technology. Why should a session run to the end of its allotted time on a timetable if the conversation has reached a natural end? Why should a vital conversation be brought to a premature end if it needs to flow on? When we self-organise a conversation,…

Exploring the Principles: Whoever comes are the right people

Like many of the open space principles, they are true at an archetypal level. The people who are in the room to get to work together on something are the people we have. Where attendance in that room is voluntary, we have a community formed out of freedom, and that commitment means the right people…

Exploring the Principles: Whenever it starts is the right time

We can become trapped by all kinds of dogma in our lives. One of them is start times. Businesses clock people in and out and there are sanctions for poor timekeeping. We grow up with school timetables and many of us probably remember being told off or even punished for being late to class. In…

Open Space – Pure and Simple

An invitation goes out to a group or community of people who are in a position to voluntarily attend an open space event. This open space event is based on this invitation: an invitation to a conversation on a topic that will make that community restless enough to attend the event and to “get to…

A Deeper Dive into the Beauty of Open Space

Skye Hirst posed the powerful question – what does beauty mean and how is it experienced,especially in relation to Open Space? Why did I call Open Space Technology Beautiful? Open Space is a benevolent process. I sense the benevolence is in… – the of gesture of faith in people and their ability to self organise…

Open Space – the Real Guide

” …the 5 principles and the Law are descriptive and not prescriptive. Or at least that is the way they popped into my head: simple observations of what was transpiring, as opposed to directions concerning what should be taking place. I have always said “Principles” and “Law” with a smile, because if you really think about…

The Bell of The Silence

I watched him. He’d been playing with his gong for over ten minutes, building up to the moment of power when he’d give it a little whack. A little whack of almost-forever. The bell would sound and keep sounding, resound and sound on, and reach all four corners of his virtuous circle. A call back…

Open Some Space

Would you like to open some space in your organisation or community? I can help you. I’ve been opening space for over twenty years, using Open Space Technology and other approaches. If you’d like to organise an Open Space Conference then contact me. You can reach me easily… By email at paul@cats3000.net Or by telephone…

Insights from an Open Space on Open Space in London 2013

This Open Space on Open Space (OSonOs), took place at Lauderdale House in London, on May 20th 2013. Notes to follow… Listen to our audio digest 1: Listen to our audio digest 2: Jon Harvey opens the space is a very minimal way – about three minutes, the market place opens and, within ten minutes…

Orphaning the Top Table and the Power of the Circle

I remember a conference where the audience took over – at least for a while. It was a revolution that left the top table (the ones who had the bottles of mineral water and the little flowers in vases) paralysed with perplexity. A formal presentation using a lot of bullet-pointed Power Point had just stopped…

How Long Should an Open Space Be ?

Do short Open Space events short-change their participants? Michael Pannwitz, an Open Spacer of long experience, makes the important point that open space events need to be whatever length is appropriate for the specific situation they have been suggested for: “Open Space Technology for social systems can not be too short or too long, it…

The Heart of Open Space

Open Space is a label we have given to something that isn’t really a something. For some, it is something esoteric, something spiritual. And that runs along a line from a holy grail of happiness, healing and renewal, to a process for getting stuff done, quickly and remarkably. For others, it’s a metaphor for a…

Follow-up or Flow in Open Space

What you are about to read might turn your view of facilitating action on its head. “Time runs backwards in the spiritual world.” No, don’t stop reading. Not yet. There’s a lot of debate in the field of emergence focused on “when things open up, how do you close them down?”. In the realm of Open…

Pop-up Open Space

I wonder if anyone reading this has experiences to share of what I am about to describe. Most published stories of open space tend to go by the book. The book is often referred to as the user guide“, and it tends towards a process that is largely based on an instruction manual. Dogmatic application…

Stories of Open Space 5 – The Call to Action

In 2010 I was invited to facilitated an Open Space for an internationally respected research group. The group wanted to focus on,its future, clarify and develop its strategy and also look at certain short term issues connected to funding cuts and a wish to “regenerate” itself as a player in its field. There was a…

Stories of Open Space 4 – Dotted Open Space

Traditionalist open spacers (yes, there are many) will probably recoil from this tale. Each year in Brighton The Critical Incident is a one day “retreat” in the heart of the city of Brighton and Hove in the UK. Over 30 sessions are spread across the day and all are experimental for the sessions leaders –…

Stories of Open Space 3 – two hours a day of magic

This short story of open space takes place on a senior management development programme based at Brighton Business School in the UK. The programme was based around a MA in Change Management. Residential workshops took place at various venues in the UK and overseas (often somewhere hotter than our home drizzle, and usually cheaper as…

Stories of Open Space 2 – Open Space Boats

This was one of the first Open Space events I facilitated. We had a grant of  a decent size from NATO to bring together academics and industrial practitioners from all over the world to explore the present and future of technological collaboration. People from fifteen different countries and five continents responded to the invitation to…

Stories of Open Space 1 – The Power of Four

                    My first ever encounter with Open Space was in the early nineties. It was a rite of passage for me as a fledgling facilitator as it was four days long, residential and in a beautiful venue in Sussex, England called The Isle of Thorns. No…

The Opening Circle that Never Closes

This little article is a kind of reminder. Several recent open space events I participated in opened the market place at the beginning of the day. Good oh! But there was then a distinct feeling that lip service was then paid to the idea that the space was open all day. Of course, when you…

100 Evocative Open Space Videos

Here are links to my favourite and essential videos of Open Space gatherings that, in different ways, evoke the mood, spirit and process of Open Space. I haven’t embedded them – you can just click on the links… My favourite … here Open Space Technology : Facilitation of a complex business issue – a silent…

100 Evocative Open Space Diagrams and Cartoons

Here’s a collections of non-photographic pictures, diagrams, drawings and cartoons that capture the essence of Open Space Technology. There’s a lot of  Art in the Open Space Technology world, possible because of the creative richness of so many of its community members! There are a lot of photographs but there are also some striking, insightful…

Open Space – 2013 and Beyond

Be in no doubt, Open Space Technology is a thing. (See footnote).  Harrison Owen specifically called (and continues to call) it a “technology”. It was a new technology designed to replace a tired old one. It was also called a technology at a time when, in management and organisational circles, facilitation methods and approaches were…

Open Space Technology and Open Space

Open Space Technology opens space. That might sound a bit strange, or even a bit obvious, but bear with me.  I’ve said that for a reason. In the Open Space Technology community of practitioners and fans I’ve encountered over the last twenty years, there is a strong behavioural pattern of not changing the first and…

Emergent Convergence and Open Space

A development in Open Space in recent years has been the “bolting on” to an Open Space event of an end-of-the-day action planning session. Other end-of-day activities include a kind of forced final round of reflections, often involving a talking stick or some kind of prioritisation of issues, stopping short of full action planning. In…

The Beauty of Open Space

I often hear Open Space practitioners calling Open Space Technology, “beautiful”. That’s a big word to attach to a “technology”. Nature is often beautiful because of its simplicity. When our lives feel overcomplicated, and our brows are furrowed, a walk in the woods, in the “clear air” can also clear our own inner air. Sitting…

Opening Space for the Open Space Principles

One of my favourite memories of Open Space events occurs when you see some peoples’ reactions to seeing the “Principles” for the first time. Of course, these principles are… Whenever it starts is the right time. Whoever comes are the right people. Whatever happens, is the only thing that could have. When it’s over, it’s…

A Visual Flavour of Open Space

Here are some visual links to Open Space in action. They evoke for me the spirit of Open Space, and why it is so valuable and successful, why it works, and why self-organisation is such a natural process… Many show the simplicity of self-organisation, and how we can create much from very little. Many show…

“Sort of” Open Space

Nadia Waber, on the Open Space Technology Linkedin Group posted the question, “What are the uncompromisable elements of Open Space Technology?” and, on the same group, Viv McWaters, quotes a facilitator who refers to a “sort of” Open Space. Many replies followed that report, with a number essentially taking up what, in other fields, would…

When does the Space Open?

Often the space opens when the Marketplace opens, and people get up to offer sessions and when people sign up to attend them. That is often the case because a lot of facilitators mistakenly think that is what the Open Space is about. They “open the space” with an introduction, a build up to that…

A hundred Opening Circles

Similar to the 100 Open Space Timetables, this is a visual look at different opening circles. It’s interesting to see that different visual impacts. There aren’t really a hundred but I’ll be adding more as I find them. For me, each of them has their own beauty and uniqueness. Each one was part of a…

Trapped by Complexity – the role of the Physical Space

Some of my favourite stories of Open Space events are those where the whole thing was “cobbled together” and turned out to be all the better for it. Often it wasn’t cobbled together at all; there was simply plenty of self-organisation on the day, rather than lots of pre-design and organisation. What we are really…

100 Open Space Timetables

Here’s a gallery of Open Space programmes. Each timetable is different. I’ve linked to them as I’d need to get permission to put each on here directly. I think there’s a lot to be learned from this gallery. There aren’t really a hundred but I’ll add more regularly and do please add your own links…

Over-Control and Open Space

I’ve often wondered why it is that people who are committed to self-organisation processes (such as Open Space Technology) often turn out to be the biggest organisers of other people of them all! I think there are a number of reasons why facilitators of self-organisation fall into the trap of well-intentioned over-organisation. One reason is…

Growing Your Work in Open Space

I shared some of this at WOSonOS2012 – the world Open Space on Open Space which took place in London in October. At the core was the notion of moving away from pushing, selling, marketing Open Space in favour of simply responding to the questions of the times in which we live and describing OS…

WOSonOs 2012 Blog

Friday 12th October 9am This is my first day for blogging. Looking forward to three insightful days. Thought for the day: Potential wants to emerge. First observation. Adorning the walls are the “principles” of Open Space. Note “Wherever it happens is the right place”. There is also “Be prepared to be surprised”. I’m very intrigued…

Facilitation metaphors and Open Space

Trawling through the many web sites and articles reporting stories of Open Space events, a range of metaphors can be seen at play in the language used by the reporters and storytellers. One of the most prominent is “facilitate”. What is facilitation? “The term facilitation is broadly used to describe any activity which makes tasks…

How Important is the Circle?

How important is the circle in an Open Space Event? The circle is “opened” and I wonder what that means? Was it once closed? What is it opened to? Jay Smith describes a circle opened by Alan Stevens in glowing terms: “Alan walks into the circle, doesn’t say a word, just starts pacing in a…

The Vital Link Between “Re” and “OS”

The prefix “re” is defined in the dictionary as: prefix meaning “back to the original place, again” Back to the original place, again. Now, hold that in mind for a few moments. I’ve suggested elsewhere that Open Space, whatever it becomes locally labelled as in a specific context, is a self-organising process for a community…

The Fundamental Principle of Open Space

The fundamental principle of open space: For an open space event to be truly emergent, the facilitator must also behave emergently. Sadly open space has become a fixed structure, a frame, and many adhere to it dogmatically. At best it is then a Nightingale’s cage with the door open, but not a true open space…

My one minute Open Space introduction.

“Imagine a conference that didn’t start with a loaded agenda, but instead an empty one. Imagine all the people there were the right people because they had chosen to be there and wanted to really explore something, or solve something together. Imagine a conference where we were relaxed but conscious about time, and where nobody…

What Open Space Really Is

Open Space is the name given to a discovery. That discovery took a particular form. It was also not a particularly new discovery. What was new about it was the potential to apply it in organisational and social settings. Open Space was discovered by Harrison Owen and – legend has it – it was a…

Open Space links

Here is my page of links to the world of open space. Critique and Research Academic research on OS A short critique Open Space not so open for introverts? Definitions A description Another definition A definition from Coaching Connect A definition by John Perkins Another from Green World Trust A definition from Planeta Art of…

My Open Space Story

I first encountered Open Space back in the early 1990s at a four day open space on The Future of Management Development. It was held at the idyllic Isle of Thorns in Sussex and was facilitated by Jack Martin Leith. Four days! Open space’s spirit resonated with me deeply and was in line with my…