The benefits of open space technology

30 May 2017

“To work collaboratively […] by being fun, innovative, creative and practical, bring about a service of extremely high quality.” This represents one of Steps Drama’s mission statements, and I found it to be true from the very first day I came to work for this organisation.

On my first week in the company I was invited to join the team on the annual Business Retreat out in the East Sussex countryside – where I discovered the culture and values of Steps, the autonomy and transparency in which decisions are made, and the creative knack which precedes all client work we do. I would like to share a particular example that embodies the above statement – an Open Space Technology session. A term first coined in the late 1980s, Open Space Technology is an alternative and engaging way to hold meetings and discussions – and inspiring everyone in the Steps team to establish a plan for the coming year.

The Open Space Technologies session started by calling volunteers to share a topic related to the business that anyone would like to discuss, these could be procedures, improvements, better practices, anything! This topic would be placed on a post-it note on the board under a discussion room. Each topic would then be debated in another discussion room or quiet area of the building and chaired by the individual who raised the topic. All participants obeyed the ‘rule of two feet’ – if they’re not engaged in a discussion, they are free to move around to different rooms within a session to listen or contribute to the discussion of choice as they saw fit.

Issues discussed ranged from how to improve certain areas of the business, better practices, operational aspects, and extra-curricular proposals. These were discussed and debated by all groups drawing to a list of conclusions and actions to be taken, actions to be followed up by the individual who raised it.

We came up with several talking points that not only are valuable and important to the business but also, to the individuals in the company. The discussions were exciting and stimulating, achieving the degree of collaboration we believe is important to any problem solving or implementation of new ideas. Using the format of Open Space Technology allowed us all to share our thoughts with the rest of the team in a fun, creative and inclusive way, and allowed us to develop several clear action plans to take back to the office.

In the two weeks since we returned from our Business Retreat and I can already see the changes happening as result of the discussions – and I know there are plenty things on the horizon. This shows how well the process works for Steps – the whole team feels empowered and engaged to make the changes happen, as they came from a truly creative and collaborative process. I can’t wait to see how the changes develop, and to see what we come up with next time we run Open Space Technologies!

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