Taking open space to the edge

This is a post I wrote for @thisismindful, to describe some of what will be taking place on the day. Why don’t you join us? Tickets are still on sale at Eventbrite.

Open Space Technology is a fantastic tool for organizing groups of people together to solve complex problems. I’ve used and experimented with Open Space at events like Trampoline, CPX and the Lantern Mental Health Unconference over the last few years and have always been impressed by it’s ability to create interesting conversations. At Mindful on the weekend, we’re going to extend that experimentation once more, and push the concept further along.

Some of the things we’ll play with are:

1) A human grid

Open Space is great because it allows everyone the chance to set the topics, time, and place that sessions will occur. This is good except for when the crowd takes over and you get lesser quality sessions, which reduces the energy in the group.

So we’re going to have a person act as the grid. That’s me.

With a human grid, people will still pitch their talk to the group, but the human grid will only place the session into the agenda if it resonates with the collective assembled. Real interest can’t be faked, and our intuitions as a group are excellent at detecting low enthusiasm. So we’ll use that to select our sessions.

2) Rule of two feet

We’ve all been there before. You arrive for a session but within the first 5 minutes you realise its not for you. But you stay. The rule of two feet is one of the most crucial aspects of an open space meet, so why don’t people exercise it?

People get addicted to the people. They stay not because they’re contributing or participating in the talk, but because they’ve become attached to the idea of being a part of the group.

This is a shame, because the very best Trampoline sessions we’ve seen over the 5 events so far has been where all of the attendees of a session were participating, through active listening, discussion and enquiry – which can’t happen if some people in the audience would rather be somewhere else.

So, at Mindful, we’re going to remind you during sessions to move on once it stops resonating for you. Perhaps we’ll change the rule to the ‘law of resonating feet’ to really make that clear.

I’ll stop sessions and nudge you to move on to what resonates.

3. Space and Time

In an open space setting, all you can really control is the space you’re in, and the time you’re in it. As we’ve discussed above, creating sessions which resonate strongly with people is the aim, but resonance is more than just a good topic. It’s everything else, too. It’s the ambient nature of the space you’re in and a the suitable time to be in it.

So how do you create spaces which resonate? You make them appeal to different frequencies of thought. At Mindful we’ll create very different spaces, with different lines of enquiry to be drawn throughout the sessions. This way, it will hopefully become easier for people to discern what mood their resonating in at any given time and move to an appropriate conversation.
If you’re keen to talk or lead a line of enquiry, then come prepared to do so!

Join us at Mindful!

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