Open Space Technology

“Here is a radical management idea: Take your best people, sit them in a circle, give them a problem, and let them solve it” (Owen, 1997). This appears to be a simple concept. It is. It is also called “Open Space Technology” (OST?). What is Open Space Technology? Why am I talking about Open Space Technology?

What is Open Space Technology?

The straight definition of OST is an environment that facilitates open human communication based on passion and responsibility. The fundamentals of OST require four basic components:

  1. A circle shape for participants to sit face to face removing all inhibitions of rank, enhance involvement, and connection.
  2. Open human communication to facilitate discussions, interactions, ideating, and idea sharing. This allows the shy folks to get out of their shells and contribute. Everyone has the responsibility to get involved.
  3. A bulletin board that provides a basic backdrop to place the ideas and topics on which the participants are interested
  4. A marketplace, which is a format to allow the participants to write down their topics, bring them to the group, and select the ones they like. Then they place the ideas on the bulletin board for others to see.


Why am I talking about Open Space Technology?

The PMI Portland Chapter is on a healthy trajectory with constant increase on membership and more than 150 volunteers.  The Chapter is holding this year’s Annual Conference again at the Oregon Convention Center. The first day fits the traditional model of 5 educational tracks of strategy, leadership, technical, Agile, and business analysis.

On the second day, the format will change to the Open Space model that is new to some of our Chapter members. It will not be the instructor style led model. Rather, it will be a circle that allows participants to voice topics that they care about. After all “the best way to get something done well is to give it to somebody who cares enough to do it” (Harrison Owen, 1997).


Has the Chapter ever used this model before?

The Chapter used the OST model last year and it was a success.


Owen, H. (2008) Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Whitehead, J. (2011) What you need to know about strategy. Capstone.

A Brief Users' Guide to Open Space Technology. Ref:

Open Space Technology A user's guide, second edition:*Version*=1&*entries*=0


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