My first Open Space

Did you ever attend an open space event? If not, you definitely should! If yes, do you remember when was the first time you came into contact with open space?

For a long time I marked October 2008, the first Developer Open Space in Leipzig as my first contact. It was a blast. I came back from this event and not too much later I’ve found the guts - with support from a fellow colleague - to host my first company internal open space.

Open Space Marketplace

Back then I felt quite overwhelmed trying to convince my team members to write higher quality code, to embrace better testing practices, to move to newer technologies and eventually to build a better product. It was just too much for a single developer to push all these things at once. The event changed everything. When we started there was this fear that the agenda could stay empty, that nobody would propose a single session. After a minute of silence, one of my tester colleagues - the one that I have seen as most disconnected from his work, doing only what’s really necessary - stepped up and proposed a session: “I want to talk about how we can test more effectively!”

That’s when I realized:

  • Wow, open space really works! Give people the time and space and they bring their passion to find solutions for topics that are relevant to them.
  • I don’t need to push all the topics I’ve found relevant myself. It’s sufficient to invite the right people to participatory tackle complex topics.

That was also the moment I became a facilitator for change, with open space and other means. A couple of years later I came into contact with the people from the Art of Hosting, learned to add some more depth to my way of facilitation, about the general foundations of group facilitation.

And some more years later, must have been at play4innovation 2017, I learned during a personal reflection exercise that 2008 actually was not my first contact with open space. It was 1989 in East Germany, Jena University, when we had multiple participatory events how we envision the future of the country. Back then we didn’t name it open space. However, the way it was run, the spirit that we experienced was the very same.

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