“In this world there are two kinds of people: those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.”
In Westerns, Cowboys have the simplest way of doing and saying things. They have a set of very simple rules, and, when faced with problems, apply them straightforwardly. They are their own bosses, yet always take into account their ecosystem; they need it to survive. And in most movies, the “Good”, meaning the ones that not only have guns and guts, but also a heart, will win.
What's happens in our companies? In our companies, we often see the exact opposite:
This results in people disengaging, results plummeting and in innovation stuttering.
This is when Open Space Cowboys come into play--bringing back some of the positive aspects of those Western figures, even if they don’t fire bullets and kill people, but they fire stars into the space and kill barriers.
The Harrison Owen's vision The first Open Space Cowboy, Harrison Owen, aka “The Wave Rider”, now 80, had been a consultant for many years when he realized there must be a much simpler and more efficient way to solve problems and get teams to work together. He was tired of seeing ideas being shot down by complexity or hierarchy. So in the 70s, he went back to the basics of problem solving: gathering stakeholders, asking the right questions, openly discussing relevant topics and sharing all ideas.
He did this in the most ancient and powerful human design: creating a circle and “opening the space”
The Open Space Technology This translated into a very simple approach he called “Open Space Technology” that can be described like this:
In this simple and efficient configuration, anything can be expressed, shared and solved within a day or two. From redesigning the architecture of a building to reducing crime in a community or creating a common strategy after a merger, almost every issue can be successfully addressed with this approach. If people have the right attitude.
I'm *not* a poor lonesome cowboyThis is why the Open Space Cowboy went one step further to ensure people would be fully committed and in the right mindset. He created a set of wise and simple principles that would eliminate constraints and barriers to creativity and openness to efficiently solve problems in the Wild Wild World. He described them this way:
What's the right posture? To ensure people adopt the right posture, he also added two extremely important principles:
And finally, to further overcome people’s resistance to use their feet and accept to be “lonesome cowboys”, he defined two roles anyone could take:
How can you become an Open Space Cowboy (or girl)?First you need to open your own space: if you are not really convinced that the above mentioned principles can work and apply to you, you will fail in opening and holding the space. If you are still uncertain, find an opportunity to experience an open space. Over the past 30 years, there have been hundreds of thousands of Open Space events all around the world, so finding one should not be a problem.
Once you feel comfortable, try the ride! And there are thousands of Open Space practitioners around the world to help you find your horse and equipment and start “riding the space”.
As Harrison Owen said during the Open Space in New York in January 2016, we live in a transformative moment, and nobody has a clue on to what will happen with our world. So either we decide to close and maintain our illusion of control, “digging ourselves” or we open and let go to ride the wonderful opportunities that will arise, “loading ourselves”.
And the results will be high performance…and peace.
© Credits photos: Once upon a time in the west; The good the bad and the ugly; Lucky Luke