Book review: Expanding our now

This book is Harrison Owens second book about Open Space, and it contains stories of how he arrived at the concept of Open Space, and of how it has helped and transformed various organizations.

Also, the book touches on time, or rather on our perception of it. All we really have is now. The past is over, the future hasn’t yet begun. But how long is that now? A week? A year? An instant?

Harrison Owen argues, that we are free to choose our perception of that now, and that the longer our now becomes, the happier we are. A long now gives us continuity in our lives, rather than flitting from one short, hectic moment to the next.

He believes (and all my experience points to the same thing) that Open Space meetings can expand our now. As he puts it: At the very least, open Space is about better, more efficient meetings. But there’s more to it. Open Space meetings promote honesty, creativity, openness, productivity, self-organization, emergence, leadership, ownership and an elusive quality we might call Spirit.

In his latest book on Open Space, The Power of Spirit, Harrison Owen writes about Spirit, but he is reluctant to define exactly what it is. We may not be able to define it unambiguously, but we all know when it’s present, and we all suffer when it’s not.

“Expanding Our Now” contains many, many insights related to the practice of Open Space. One of my favourite thoughts is about what would happen in an organization that used Open Space all the time. Where Open Space as a practice had disappeared, because it was an ingrained part of the culture and structure. I think that could be a highly effective, dynamic and fun place to work.

Another thought is what it would be like to live your life as an Open Space. It seems this is pretty much what Harrison Owen is doing. The four principles and one law of Open Space certainly translate to good living rules in my opinion. Imagine living by the following principles:
* Whoever’s present are the right people
* Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened
* Whenever it starts is the right time
* When it’s over it’s over

And of course the one law (The law of two feet): If you find yourself in a situation where you’re neither learning nor contributing, you have the right to use your two feet and leave. At the very least, living by these rules will keep you focused on what is happening, rather than on what you hope will happen.

I recommend this book highly, but if you’re new to Open Space, I recommend that you start with Open Space: A users guide and then read The Power of Spirit, before tackling this one.

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