This has really helped me Lottie. Open Space Technology was originally an approach for hosting meetings and business conferences in America. Now it is used by a company called Improbable Theatre to host big theatre conferences in London (where we all get together and talk about theatre*) And sometimes we use it to make theatre (which is great). But I want to talk about using it in life, because it changes everything,
Below are some examples of how you may Open Space your life, but it’s different every time, and as you get good at it, you’ll recognise the times when you have the opportunity to Open Space (rather than freak out at a situation.)
The Open Space Principles:
Whoever comes are the right people:
You have a birthday party, and only two people come, out of the fifty you invited. Instead of worrying about the 48 that didn’t show up, forget about them. Be glad that the two that did come are the right people to be there. The other people didn’t come, they weren’t the right people.
Wherever it happens is the right place:
Um, this one’s trickier. I guess what it says. You’re at the edge of the bowling alley, and your friend suddenly decides to divulge their biggest secret to you. May not seem like the right place. But it is. Or you suddenly get the idea for your first novel at the top of the Empire State Building, whip out that notebook and write down your notes, it’s the right place.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have:
This doesn’t mean you have don’t have any control over your outcomes, but say you’re having a morning when EVERYTHING seems to be going wrong: you set fire to the coffee pot (true story), the compost bag explodes on you (true story) the credit card machines aren’t working at the train station and they won’t let you on the train without a ticket, but they won’t let you buy one (true story) and then you end up missing your connecting train out to Surrey and you’re late for work. All of this happened, so don’t waste time wishing it hadn’t. Perhaps, if you had have got the earlier train, you would have stepped off the pavement in Surrey and have been hit by a car. Accept and let what is be.
Whenever it starts is the right time:
You host a party or hold a meeting, or organise to meet your friends to play tennis or go bowling. When you meet, everyone instead wants to discuss the maths homework / the upcoming elections / the meaning of life… whatever, and it postpones the actual doing what you were supposed to be doing. Instead of itching to get started, feeling as though you’re wasting time, accept that the event will start when the time is right for it to start, and that all the pre-stuff is important too.
(Also, this is not an excuse for you being late. Punctuality is really important. But if you are unavoidably, then this applies.)
When it’s over, it’s over:
You were going to revise for an hour, but after 25 minutes your brain’s switched off. It’s over. Come back to it later. Just because you anticipated something would take longer than it did, be good at acknowledging when it’s done, then you can put your time to better use. It may just be a case of ‘it’s over’-for now, and you’ll pick it up later.
I also think this applies to relationships. Don’t drag them out if they’re painful. Accept they are over and move on, thus causing yourself less pain. (Of course this one is by no means simple, but hold it in mind, it may be useful one day.)
The Law of Two feet or The Law of mobility – If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing use your two feet to take yourself where your time will be better spent.
If you feel you could be better used somewhere else, take the responsibility to put yourself there. So what you spent nine years studying neuroscience and suddenly decide that actually you want to retrain as a Michelin star chef? Do it. Find a way. Because if your heart’s not in it, you’ll be a rubbish neuroscientist. You are responsible for your own happiness, the law of two feet means you always have a choice, a choice which both you and others will benefit from if you recognise times in which the law of two feet may be useful.
So there you have it. Open Spacing. Smashing. We’ll talk about it more some day.
A photo that makes me unbelievably happy. In 2013 we made a show in Open Space. It was called ‘Chaosbaby’. It was by far one of the best things to happen last year, and everyone in this photo is quite awesome. (Photo by Jen Toksvig.)
*Improbable’s Open Space stuff: http://www.devotedanddisgruntled.com/