About Michael "Coop" Cooper
Michael O. “Coop” Cooper is an internationally recognized executive coach, advisor, facilitator and trainer who specializes in working with executive teams to develop the leadership skills, alignment and strategies to grow and thrive in a constantly changing environment.
Coop will help you identify and overcome your business blind spots, perceive challenges as opportunities, and translate newly found insights into energy and action. By quickly diagnosing core problems, not just symptoms, Coop has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and executives resolve significant and complex interpersonal and business challenges.
Coop has 27 years of experience as a coach, management consultant, strategist and project leader with Fortune 1000 companies and small businesses in over 33 countries. He has worked with leaders at Accuray, Altimeter Group, American Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Attack! Marketing, Auth0, Bateman Group, BetaBrand, K G Bell Construction, Biking Billboards, Bite Communications, Blanc & Otus, BPM, Brandshare, BYND, Cellares Corporation, CoachSource, Cohn & Wolfe, Creo Design, Eastwick Communications, eBay, Engage PR, Epic Public Relations, Facebook, Firebrick Consulting, Fleishman Hillard, Fraenkel Gallery, Jack Franchetti Communications, FrontRow Education, Fuse Project, Genentech, Glu Mobile, Google, Grizzly Creek Management, Highwire PR, Hill & Knowlton, Horn Group, Hotwire Communications, HRQ, IfWe, Inner Circle Labs, Jackson Family Wines, Kicker Studio, Koski Research, L Studio, Lattice Engines, Lithium Technologies, Logica Research, LumenVox, The Mark Company, Mars PetCare, Marygold, Matternet, Maven Recruiting, Medal, Meltwater, Merrill Corporation, Gary Morganroth Architect, Mphasis Corporation, North Bay Health Care, Northern California Human Resources Association, Novell, O'Melveney & Myers, Organic, PayPal, Qubole, Rainin Foundation, Rina Corporation, Run8 Patent Group, Science Exchange, Sega, Seagate, SEEDS, Siemens, Slap Company, Social Glass, Solvay, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, City of South San Francisco, Southwest Airlines, Solvay, SparkPR, Stamen Design, Sterling Brands, Sutro Machine, Sweet Cruises and Resorts, TeleNav, Tides Foundation, Washington DC Department of Health Care Finance, Veme, Weber Shandwick, Wells Fargo, WE Worldwide, Yahoo, Yammer, YMCA, Zlot and Associates and hundreds of other organizations large and small. He co-lead the teams to develop the world’s first wireless web platform for Vodafone and Verizon deployed in 27 countries and developed the specifications for the first custom internet car-ordering system for Honda. He has facilitated global summits for Sony corporation and a conference on managing Millennials for the Northern California Human Resource Association. He coached the team who won the 2018 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Interaction Design for the Atlas of Emotions project for the Dalai Llama.
For the past 16 years, he has coached and advised Eric Rodenbeck, CEO & Creative Director of Stamen Design, named by Fast Company as one of the 50 Top Innovative Companies in America and one of the Top 50 Designers in America. He has also been selected to coach the prestigious TED Fellows.
Coop is a contributor to Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Wired Innovations. He was the founding president of the International Association of Coaching, has served on the faculty of Sony leadership programs, CoachVille, Thomas Leonard School of Coaching and the Graduate School of Coaching. He completed coach training at Coach U, CoachVille and the School of Shadow Coaching. He received an MBA from the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University with a concentration in Information Systems and a special emphasis in Global Strategic Management and degrees in History, Communications Studies and Technology Education at Virginia Tech. He received the (Shop Local / Consulting) Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2006 from San Francisco where he lives with his partner and dog. He is an active supporter of the arts and Burning Man community.
Why Innovators + Influencers?
Because we're special and we have tons of untapped potential!
- We make up only 15% of the population, yet we are 35% of business owners. We are the right brainers, the cultural creatives, the thought leaders in our fields, we are the innovators and influencers. More than anyone else, we are making a positive difference in the world.
- We think differently than the rest of the world. We don't fit in. We're misunderstood. Very few "experts" know how to help us thrive. There are very few books or resources geared specifically for us. Most people, including coaches, advisors and even therapists, don't understand why or how we do the things we do. That's my specialty! I've been coaching innovators and influencers and right-brain entrepreneurs for the past 15 years and I've developed a specific approach that works, based on how we work naturally!
- We have vast reserves of untapped potential, hidden wisdom and information locked deep within ourselves that most of us don't know how to harness. We know we can make a bigger impact, but we just don't know how.
- We have specific limiting beliefs, fears and bad habits fueled by business norms that limit our ability to make the world a better place.
Background & Tools
Many people ask how I'm able to accomplish so much in a short time period with limited interaction and staff. I spend thousands of dollars every year upgrading my skillset and toolbox and countless hours and resources improving my understanding of how my clients businesses work and how that translates to potential clients’ businesses. I seek out training opportunities that help improve my clients’ businesses. Here are some of my tools and resources:
- Graduate, CoachU
- Graduate, Thomas Leonard School of Coaching & CoachVille Graduate School of Coaching
- Collaborative Operating System Training
- Open Space Technology Facilitator Training
- True Purpose Consultant Training
- Organizational True Purpose Consultant Training
- Shadow Coach Training
Collaborative Operating System:
(I ama licensed COS Consultant):
Most of us are able to be effective when we are working on our own. It’s when we have to do complex work in groups that we falter. Collaborative teams stand out because of their high levels of trust, productivity, and accountability. Leaders of collaborative teams report that they spend far less time handling issues, conflicts, and laboring to get people to keep their commitments. Collaborative organizations enjoy higher employee engagement, lower costs, and higher productivity
The Collaborative Operating System partially or fully replaces hierarchy within organizations. The COS is comprised of:
- Collaborative Charter
- 7 Agreements of Collaborative Organizations (Feedback, Communication, Conflict Management, Decision-Making, Attendance, Accountability, Amendments)
- The Collaborative Problem-Solving (or Challenge Identification) Template with Intent and Desired Outcomes
- Collaborative Meeting Design Template
- Clear Ownership and Alignment
Implementing COS can be done over time and can be used to address acute problems quickly.
COS Organizations lead, manage, and structure all work according to the Five Elements of Collaboration:
- Identify the Problem/Challenge
- Involve Relevant Stakeholders
- Form a Collaborative Team
- Co-Create a Collaborative Plan
- Meet Collaboratively
(Adapted from CoachVille, used with permission)
Engages in provocative conversations.
Coaching sessions are generally short. By hearing what the client is saying and not saying, by questioning what we hear, by asking the right questions, pressing for clarity, and by sharing what we know and how we feel, provocative conversations can occur within minutes, not months.
Reveals the client to themselves.
The more aware anyone is, the better choices they can make for themselves. Part of what we do with clients is to help them discover their gifts, talents, wants, values, needs and dreams, as well as come to understand what motivates and inspires them. The result? A well-informed client, more easily moving forward on their path of self-awareness.
Few clients come to us and specifically ask that we bring out and develop this greatness, but this is what we do naturally when we ask the client to think and act bigger, and by challenging the client to continually raise their own bar and standards.
Enjoys the client immensely.
Clients naturally take more risks and move forward more quickly because they know we are totally there for them. When the coach is at this place with a client, the coaching is collaborative and light, not heavy.
Expands the client’s best efforts.
One of the reasons clients hire us is to support them to do more in a shorter period of time than they would do on their own. We act as both a catalyst and accelerant. By supporting the client to do more than they have done or think that they are capable of doing, significant value is added.
Navigates via curiosity.
We are naturally curious and can be well-guided by that curiosity. After all, we are in the discovery business and how can we help the client find new and better ways of doing things, if we are not curious? And the real benefit of curiosity is that it leads to learning for both the coach and client.
Recognizes perfection in every situation.
One way of looking at life is to believe that everything happens for a perfectly good reason, even if we cannot always see or know that reason within our own lifetime. The point here is to look for and find how a client’s event, problem, situation or trait is perfect, even if it’s clearly not. Seeking to understand and recognizing perfection first, instead of offering tips, techniques and solutions as a knee-jerk reaction, is what we do naturally.
Hones in on what matters most.
Depending on the day, hour or even minute, what is most important to the client will change. Such is the nature of individuals in a high-growth phase of their lives. We are both quick to recognize this moving target and flexible enough to adjust the coaching to be effective in this new terrain.
This should be obvious, yes? After all, the cleaner the communication, the less that gets in the way of great coaching. That said, most people have ‘stuff’ in our communication style which slows down the super-conductive nature of the coaching process. We work to clean up the stuff that can get in the way of effective coaching. What kind of stuff? Everything from biases, judgments, unmet needs, shoulds, coulds, to singularity, vicariousness, agendas, arrogance and fears. It’s all clearable.
Shares what is there.
Clients rely on our observations, intuition, opinions and even our inklings to help move them forward in life. Hence, the more often, and easily, we can share what they see, feel and hear, the more value that can be created for that client. It’s often the tiniest, most subtle inklings that can act as powerful beacons and catalysts to the client’s life or business.
Champions the client.
The more often, and deeply, we champion the client at all levels (including their actions, progress, dreams, traits, commitments, gifts and qualities), the more encouraged the client feels and the more likely they are to succeed. Merely encouraging is not enough; there is a much higher level of support generated when we operate at the championing level.
Enters new territories.
We expand the client’s thinking by weaving in new concepts, principles and distinctions during the coaching session, and also by inviting the client to experiment with new models, ways of doing things, and even to identify new goals or outcomes. Clients don’t usually ask us for this, but these are key ways that value is created for the client.
This may sound obvious, and it is deeper than that. After all, truth is a level above mere honesty, as in there is always a truth about a situation, person or event that, when discovered and articulated, can transforms one’s life or business. We have come to enjoy and orient around truth as a source of joy and guidance.
Designs supportive environments.
Success, not to mention personal evolution, becomes sustainable when there are environments and failsafe structures which support it. After all, who wants to rely on fortitude and willpower to get things done or to develop oneself? We have been specifically trained to help clients design and install these environments.
Respects the client’s humanity.
We all have limits, both internal and external, and as much as coaching is about maximizing potential and opportunities, we are all human and we respects this. Success without stress is what we are all after and by recognizing limits and appreciating different paths to achievement, the client is both individually and universally respected.
(Adapted from CoachVille, used with permission)
It’s all solvable, or it’s not.
When you have come to embrace this framework, the worry and panic has no way to grip your thoughts or actions. Comfort and confidence are byproducts of the framework that it’s all solvable, or it’s not.
Risk is always reducible.
Given that so many of our clients are becoming more independent and entrepreneurial in how they think and how they work, their ability to deal with risk is key to their continued success. And from a coaching perspective, part of our job is to help the client to afford to take more risks. That risk can be mitigated to helping the client to arrange for reserves so that any failure has fewer consequences, and/or we can help the client find ways to substantially reduce the risk of what they are undertaking. Risk is always reducible. Less risk equals more value.
There’s usually a better way.
No matter what the strategy or approach the client is thinking of, there is usually a better way. That’s a powerful place to come from as a coach because it stimulates creative thinking. If one looks, and is encouraged to think beyond the traditional ways of solving a problem or accomplishing an outcome, a new, better, easier, faster, less expensive and less risky way is usually available. And, from the client’s perspective, instant value has been added when it is discovered.
Success is a byproduct.
Going after success directly can definitely work but that’s like pushing string. It’s usually a lot easier to live the life you want and develop/follow your passion and let success find you.
Emotions are our teachers.
Even emotional reactions, if you wish to learn from them. Emotions are are barometers, our teachers, our mirrors of what is left to learn.
Delay is increasingly expensive.
The windows of opportunities open more often, yet shut more quickly than ever before. Consumers have come to expect immediate service, delivery and problem resolution. A highly responsive competitor can make its mark in mere months, not years. Combine that dynamic with the level of flow and just-in-time synchronicity that humans are coming to rely on to be their best, and the notion of delay is fading quickly as a viable option in life and business.
Inklings are higher intelligence.
The definition of an inkling is a subtle sense of something, even with no evidence to back it up. An inkling is even quieter than intuition and even more powerful. Inklings are at the gateway of truth and as we sensitize ourselves to feel at this level, we get access to inklings and have the courage to act on them, vs waiting for them to become intuition or fact. As clients come to trust their inklings, they make better choices sooner. A clear value add.
The answer is somewhere.
Does the client have the answer? Or does the coach? How about a book? How about the ethers? The point here is that it doesn’t really matter where the answer is, but that there is an answer somewhere and it’s up to the coach and client to find out where it is. This also stimulates the creative/collaborative relationship between us, instead of forcing either party to come up with the answer.
Self-confidence can be arranged.
You don’t need to rely on yourself to feel confident. You can arrange ample support structures and encouragement, and design situations that will feed you the confidence you need because you’ve earned it.
Memes and genes are evolving at different rates.
We all know what genes are: they are the genetic make up of living things; there are genetic structures, the genome and the gene pool where replication and mutation are the process, and natural selection is the byproduct when environments change. Memes are EXACTLY the same type of thing; except that memes refer to ideas, messages and opinions that are shared (replicated) and modified (mutated). And, given memes can replicate 1000′s of time faster than genes can, and also evolve that much faster as now thanks to the Internet, our bodies are pressured/stressed by changing ideas before our cells have a chance to adapt and keep up. Hence, mental stress.
Work is for joy.
What good is owning a business if it doesn’t bring you pleasure? What good is having a job that doesn’t bring you joy? The point here is that when you come from this place, you’ll have a much more enjoyable relationship with your business or work, even if it means that the you have to make substantial changes in order for this to occur. So, rather than be consumed by a business or job, have it actually be a source of joy. Novel concept for many. Instant value add.
Problems are immediate opportunities.
Got a problem? There is likely an immediate opportunity for you in that problem. Either a chance to grow/evolve, or a chance to learn something, resolve something, use as a spring board, and even as a profit center/business.
People are doing their very, very best, even when they clearly are not.
When you look at life this way, compassion, empathy and respect are the norm. In the moment, we are striving to do our best with what we have available to us. This often clears up guilt and stress.
Awareness is unifying.
What unifies humans? What helps us transcend the petty reactions and historical conflicts? Awareness, meaning the dawning/understanding of truths greater than the one we currently know. Not just information/knowledge, but truths. As we all increase awareness, we see the commonality/ connections among all of us; that can lead to harmony.
Life is about us, and it’s not personal.
And yet it can feel so personal.
Coaching Style Points:
(Adapted from CoachVille, used with permission):
Hears what is actually said.
We strive to avoid misinterpreting, filtering, reframing what is said.
We avoid adding positive spin, responding to something that wasn’t said, irrelevant comments, pouncing with a solution, trying too hard.
Takes client’s concerns seriously.
We avoid being dismissive, not understanding the perceived seriousness of situation, or invalidating.
You won’t find us being long winded, relating long stories or convoluted language. That wastes time and leads to confusion.
Is light and neutral.
We avoid being heavy, significant, charged and flat if at all possible.
We don’t lecture, push for change, fake being ‘on,’ pepper with questions, or push our point of view/agenda.
Communicates in full-duplex mode.
We are able to speak and listen at the same time.
We don’t holding back or avoid being ourselves.
We don’t fall behind, backtrack, or miss a shift the client has just made.
Hears between the lines.
We listen intently for dissonance, subtleties, hints.
Uses commonly understood words.
Jargon, technical terms or unfamiliar words waste time and energy. We don’t need to sound fancy or overly educated.
You won’t find meekness, timidity, bravado or arrogance here.
Our work is about you! We don’t self-reference or compete for attention.
Is comfortable with problems.
We won’t rush to fix, point mostly to the bright side, try to make the you feel better by spinning things to the positive or provide medicants. We understand the situation and help co-create solutions.
Is “with” the client.
We focus on you and avoid distractions like wasting time preparing for responses or thinking too hard.
Core Dynamics of Common Problems:
(Adapted from CoachVille, used with permission)
Resisting feeling things fully
This dynamic is based on experiences of having been overwhelmed by intense feelings when we were very young. To avoid the experience of overwhelm, we made the inner decision to resist feeling things fully. This dynamic is based on the illusion that if you feel fully, you won’t be able to handle it.
Example of everyday expression: “You can’t handle the truth.”
When the dynamic is absent, what you experience is “I feel anything and everything without the fear of being overwhelmed.”
Ignoring your intuition
This dynamic comes from having been punished as a child for acting on your inner knowing/intuition. It is based on the illusion that if you act on your intuition, you will be overwhelmed by the consequences.
Example of everyday expression: “I could have had a V-8″
When this dynamic is absent, what you feel is, “I completely trust my intuition and I always act on it.”
When we judge something (or someone) it’s to create a feeling of us being separate from it – “I’m not like that!” In reality, the things we judge reflect of part of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge. (When there is no ‘charge’ in us about something, we feel neutral about it.) This dynamic is based on the habit of avoiding issues that we really need to address and resolve within ourselves. Put down the magnifying glass and pick up the mirror!
Example of everyday expression: “What a jerk.”
When this dynamic is absent, what you feel is, “Everything I experience is a part of me. I acknowledge it, embrace it and value it.”
Avoiding the present
When this dynamic is operating in us, we get absorbed in the stories we’ve invented about past events or we start anticipating possible negative outcomes in the future. This dynamic is based on the habit of avoiding being present and the fear that being present will be difficult. Many addictions that people experience are the result of having a number of unresolved emotions about the past that feel too intense to deal with in the present.
Example of everyday expression: “There’s always tomorrow”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I live completely in the present moment.”
Looking for yourself where you are not
When this dynamics is operating, we try to get a sense of ourselves from situations outside of ourselves. We may, for example, define ourselves by our actions, accomplishments or possessions. This dynamic is based on the illusion that we are incomplete and need something from outside ourselves to be whole.
Example of everyday expression: “ Needing to keep up with the ‘Jones’”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I am whole and complete.”
Mistaking need for love
When this dynamic is operating, we confuse love – which is unconditional and requires nothing in return – with the need to receive something from someone else. (Love lets go, need holds on.) This dynamic is based on the illusion that love is something that you get from outside yourself. Our culture constantly confuses love as need in our movies, songs and media.
Example of everyday expression: “You complete me. or This is my better half.”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I love with out needing anything in return and I participate in relationships of mutual giving.”
When this dynamic is present in us, we find ourselves looking for events around us to stay the same so that we can feel secure. It is based on the illusion that stability and security can be found in the changing world around us, rather than within us.
Example of everyday expression: “It’s not going to be any different “
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I live in the delight and wonder of uncertainly.”
Because of this dynamic, we hold ourselves back out of the fear of losing the approval of others. When we express ourselves powerfully, some people don’t like it because it makes them feel uncomfortable that they are holding back. This dynamic is based on the illusion that if we powerfully express ourselves, we will be alone.
Example of everyday expression: “It’s lonely at the top.”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I can be fully self-expressed without fearing loss of love from others.”
Trying to force an outcome
When this dynamic is operating in us, we feel compelled to “make things happen’ in a particular way and in a particular time frame. This dynamic is based on the illusion that we alone are responsible for what occurs in our lives, rather than a connected part of all of life.
Example of everyday expression: “It’s my way or the highway.”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I get the sense of myself from the essential nature of who I truly am rather than from my actions or accomplishments.”
Excluding other perspectives
When this dynamic is present, we over-identify with our minds and think we have, and need to have, all the answers. This dynamic comes from not recognizing the difference between thinking with our mind and ‘knowing’ from our deepest level or soul.
Example of everyday expression: “You’ve got to be kidding. They have no idea.”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I know things from deep within myself and I know the difference between thinking and knowing.”
When this dynamic is operating, we get overly absorbed in trying to explain or interpret events. It is based on the illusion that everything is not perfect as it is.
Example of everyday expression: “It takes money to make money.”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “I sense the perfection in everything even when my intellect doesn’t get it.”
Over-reacting to circumstances
When this dynamic is present, we become overly disturbed or distressed by what happens to ourselves or others. This dynamic interferes with our ability to maintain a strong sense of who we are under extreme circumstances.
Example of everyday expressions: “I could just kill him.”
When this dynamic is absent, you feel, “a deep sense of equanimity (balance, calm) during experiences of pleasure or pain.”
(Adapted from Wikipedia)
Dialogue Education is a synthesis of principles and practices that can be applied in a concrete way to learning design and facilitation that shifts the focus of education from what the teacher says to what the learner does. It views learners as subjects in their own learning based on mutual respect and open communication. Learners are invited to actively engage with the content being learned rather than being dependent on the educator for learning.
- Learning Needs and Resources Assessment (LNRA) To discover the present knowledge and skills of the learners and help develop further goals.
- The Seven Steps of Design – In designing learning activities, educators seek to answer in as much detail as possible the questions
- Who – are the learners, the educators, other participants?
- Why – the situation that calls for the learning, especially in terms of why the learners want to be there.
- When – will the learning take place (timing & total length of time available)?
- Where – will learning take place (location, set up, etc.)?
- What – specific Content (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes) will be covered to address the Why?
- What for – Describes the Achievement-Based Objectives (ABOs) for each element of Content
- How – the Process (learning tasks) through which learners interact with the What to meet each ABO (What For). By answering these questions in detail and ensuring congruence throughout, a strong, accountable design can be prepared.
Learning Tasks (How?) – work by using active verbs to engage the learner and work at proficiency in knowledge, skills, and attitudes (both individuals and groups). This leads to the development of the four I’s.
- Inductive work that allows the learner to reflect on their past experience
- Input which provides some new information for the learner to consider
- Implementation which invites the learner to apply this new information and finally
- Integration to bring the new understanding back into the context of the learner.
The principles and practices at every level:
- Learning needs and resources assessment – Learners need to participate in the planning of what will be learned. Conducting an LNRA, allows the educator to begin to model the dialogue with learners that will continue during the educational event. Additionally the design may be enhanced because it is informed by the themes of learners and an understanding of what is meaningful to them.
- Safety – Learners must feel safe in order to engage with other learners, teachers and the content. The atmosphere and design for learning must create a safe environment for learners. Challenge is still necessary for learning to take place, but with the promise of support, reinforcement and being provided with all of the tools (skills, knowledge and abilities) necessary to do the task, learners can feel prepared to undertake this challenge.
- Sound Relationships – This involves respect and interest in the views of all involved in the learning process and is established on an individual basis. It is based on the soundness of the person who is in the position of teacher.
- Sequence and Reinforcement – Sequencing activities help to ensure learner safety and success in task completion by building from small to large, simple to complex, single to many and familiar to unfamiliar. When learners repeatedly interact with the content in diverse and engaging ways, learning is reinforced.
- Praxis – Learners must have opportunities to act upon content and then reflect on their actions in order to draw conclusions and then to have further opportunities to act again. This can be achieved through the use of analysis, taking apart information or a situation, and synthesis, putting it back together are both necessary for learning to occur.
- Respect – Seen through the effort that is put into the learning endeavor by all participants. The teacher in the preparation and structuring of the learning process and the learners in the engagement and effort exhibited back.
- Ideas, Feelings, Actions – In order for significant learning to occur, ideas (cognition), feelings (affection) and actions (psychomotor) all need to be involved in learning activities.
- Relevance and Immediacy – Content needs to be immediately applicable, useful and meaningful (relevant) to the context of the learner in order for learning to occur.
- Clear Roles – Learners must see the equality between teacher and learners and among learners. This can be supported by teachers through the demonstration of listening intently, showing interest in the learners and expressing humility.
- Teamwork and Small groups – The use of small group work is a central practice in Dialogue education because it creates a safe environment for learners to find their voice, reflects life situations of teamwork and allows for peer mentoring which can enhance learning.
- Engagement – Learners are engaged with making theory on any subject and educators must use cognitive, affective and psychomotor activities to engage learners in this process. When learners are engaged they are committed to the learning process.
- Accountability – Accountability is one of the most important principles in adult learning. Teachers must be accountable to learners through their learning design and facilitation and learners must be accountable to the teacher, each other and themselves through their actions.
- Transfer – evidence that cognitive, affective, or psychomotor (kinesthetic) learning has taken place
Open Space Technology
Open Space Technology is a simple way to run productive meetings, for five to 2000+ people, and a powerful way to lead any kind of organization, in everyday practice and extraordinary change. Over the last 20+ years, it has also become clear that opening space, as an intentional leadership practice, can create inspired organizations, where ordinary people work together to create extraordinary results with regularity.
Open Space is difficult to explain because it is based on chaos theory and uses minimal structure to elicit ideas and collaboration based on people’s interests. Any open space meeting starts with setting the agenda with all participants, a radically different approach from most meetings. The process is based on four principles:
- Whoever comes are the right people.
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
- Whenever it starts is the right time.
- When it is over it is over.
And one law: The Law of Two Feet – participants are allowed to focus on anything they are passionate about or interested in.
Here’s what Open Space results in:
- All of the issues that are most important to the participants will be raised.
- All issues raised will be addressed by those participants most qualified and capable of getting something done on each of them.
- All of the most important ideas, discussion, data, recommendations, conclusions, questions for further study, and plans for immediate action will be documented in one comprehensive report — finished, printed and in the hands of participants in a very short time-frame.
- When appropriate and time is allowed for it, the total contents of this report document can be focused and prioritized in a matter of a few hours, even with very large groups (100′s).
- After an event, all of these results can be made available to an entire organization or community within days of the event, so the conversation can invite every stakeholder into implementation immediately.
Results like these can be planned and implemented faster than any other kind of so-called “large-group intervention.” It is literally possible to accomplish in days and weeks what some other approaches take months and years to do.