Opening Space

I’ve just returned from running an open space event in Rome with my friends at Policy Unplugged. It was great and – as ever – I continue to learn about myself from doing the work. The great joy of the open space format is the extent to which it gives power to participants… and then challenges the facilitator not to interfere with what they create.

It’s so easy to look at how people spend their time and make all sorts of assumptions about what they’re up to; compare these with what you assume they ought to be up to; and then interfere to “improve” things. Worse of all, you find yourself doing it without realising you’re doing it. I think this time I managed myself pretty well and squelched most if not all of that kind of self-talk. Harrison Owen, who invented Open Space, has a motto of “one less thing” and I think I managed to keep to that spirit this time out.

One more thing I did do was after the event closed. I had four hours before our flight home and was tempted to crash out by the hotel pool (we were a few miles outside the city). Lloyd Davis suggested we go into Rome and just experience the city itself, even if just for an hour or two. That was a good call. We had great meal by the Colliseum, tested the underground, and rubbed shoulders with the Romans; although this was a brief experience, it really made the trip more fun. And got me away from that road-from-the-airport, air-conditioned, velvet-wallpaper, quasi-service, pseudo-comfort over-branded experience that business travel so often becomes.

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