Freeplay Turnout

Freeplay Turnout

The Crew for Sunday June 9


David Kolb is at the protective fence. Jedi Matt’s t-shirt reads: Savoring Every Memory Since 1847. With the bat on his shoulder softball deity Mark Jr. likely is pondering some demonstration of prowess or moral instruction. So it went.

We had our first eighteen person turnout since last August. Thank you Randy from North Royalton for showing up. We subjected our new player to the full spectrum of our inner and outer game/games.

God bless Alice Kolb for reminding me right off not to worry so much about the size of our group. Oh, we play–conduct our 27 year old ongoing experiment– every Sunday at around 9:45-10:00am at Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights. Anybody 16-115 is welcome to join us.

If it is possible for groups to experience Spirit in immediate and direct ways in Open Space, so also for the individual. And personally, I have been a major beneficiary. Over the 15 years since Open Space was first done, it has been an amazing journey.

The learnings have been many, but two stand out in particular. First, it is all about letting go. We have discovered, through countless pointed lessons, that there is precisely one way to mess up an Open Space – and only one way. And that is to think that you are in charge of what happens, or worse yet, to act that way. Truthfully, the facilitator has little if anything of a substantive nature to contribute. No fixes, no interventions – or at least not of an obvious sort. For a brief time at the beginning, the facilitator holds center stage (literally), and then it is essential to get out of the way.

For me, as for most of my friends and colleagues, being charge, taking control, was the be all and end all of a proper manager – by whatever name. And if we weren’t in charge, then surely somebody had to be. We became quite skilled at developing marvelous designs for training and other work, timed down to 5 minute intervals with precise instructions for who, what, where, when and how. We knew that things didn’t always work as we hoped, but we had the idea – the perfect span of control would be realized, the optimal organization set in place. If not today, then tomorrow for sure.

The stakes involved much more than professional skill. It was really about image and self-esteem. Those who were in charge ruled, and to be out of control was, typically, to be out of a job. Giving up the one thing that seemingly defined me as me (at least in a professional sense) seemed a little much.

I can’t say that I achieved my objective all in one fell swoop. Truthfully, I did not fully realize how deeply the urge for control had rooted itself in my daily life and professional practice. However, by taking things one step at a time, not unlike the twelve step approach to breaking any addictive behavior, useful things happened. My approach was quite straight forward. Each time I have the privilege of Opening Space for some group, I would think of one more thing not to do. Some little intervention, bell, or whistle was laid to one side. “Ice breaking” exercises disappeared. Warm up, creativity inducing programs were put down. To my surprise, as each layer was pealed off, the function of the group suffered not a whit. Indeed, it only got better.

The hardest part of letting go was to put to one side the self-expectation that in the event of conflict, it was my job in life to intervene and fix it. I found, however that in the (usually) unlikely event that my intervention was effective, the group would look at me with some kind of wonder, forgetting totally that they were the ones who were wonderful. And of course, if I failed miserably, the group would blame me, and forget that I did not have a conflict – that it was not my problem to be solve. (Owen Harrison)




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