Those Darned Numbers Again

Yet more from Anecdote. A great Dilbert cartoon, about the artificiality of fitting numbers and rationality to strategic plans. Works on many levels. The “complexity” in the square root of the negative number, or simply the fact that the result is “imaginary”, and the strange recursion in the mobius strip timeline. Many a true word.

Also followed the Anecdote links to “Open Space“. Something I’ve been following for some time, though I don’t believe I’ve ever blogged about it. Johnnie Moore used it as a facilitation method for a group of knowledge management bloggers I’ve been involved with. Like much new management consultancy buzzspeak, it’s easy to take a cynical view of old ideas packaged with new jargon, designed to sell new textbooks and new consultancy services. But it is based on the sound idea that human narrative interaction is the best means of organisation through complexity.

I could see it as an antidote to the John Cleese “Meetings, Bloody Meetings” approach. The idea that if you must have meetings, make sure they are “efficient”, and impose rules of participation that stick to the agenda, speaking one at a time, we have one meeting here, and so on. Whereas, OpenSpace facilitation encourages agenda formation by invitation of the participants, and positively encourages the idea that people will naturally group around multiple sub-meetings / sub-agendas, where they have greatest interest, enthusiasm, contributions. The grouping and re-grouping, by physicaly walking about and moving chairs around is fundamental. The only imposed structure is the Open Space format, not the agenda content, nor any specific decision-making outcomes – so clearly it’s not the right process for every “meeting”. Imposed informality almost. Good where genuinely open outcomes are expected from complex situations. Preparation and facilitation skills are about allowing what happens naturally to happen – so establishing genuine openeness and trust in the transparency of any implicit prior agendas is crucial, as is allowing and encouraging the right forms of interaction to happen, even though uninitiated participants may initially find the apparent chaos uncomfortable. (This is a good brief summary article by Diane Gibeault.)

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