Alternative Solutions, Inc.

OpenSpace Tech Nights

We’ve mentioned our Tech Nights before (in our 3D Printing story here), but as January is National Mentoring Month, we thought we’d take a deeper look at what these nights entail! 

Our tech nights are loosely structured on the OpenSpace model. What is that you ask? Great question! OpenSpace encourages groups of people to co-create their own learning, and provides just enough structure to ensure progress, but not enough to inhibit learning. How do they do that? Harrison Owen, who originated this approach, introduced four Guiding Principles and One Law that describe (NOT control) the process of these meetings: 

The Four Principles

    1. Whoever Comes is the right people.
          • Meaning you don’t need the executive team and 100 people to get things done.  You just need people there who care.
  1.  2. Whatever Happens is the only thing that could have.
          • Once something happens, you can’t undo it or worry about what else might have happened.  Move on.
       3. Whenever it starts is the right time.
          • You can’t rush creativity and you can’t slow down genius.
  1.  4. When it’s over, it’s over.
          • This means you can move on to the next thing.  Don’t draw something out that could be shorter, or don’t wrap things up too early because you don’t have time.

The One Law: 

Owen’s one law is called the ‘Law of Two Feet’ or ‘The Law of Mobility’. If at any time you are neither learning nor contributing, you can use your two feet and go elsewhere. When participants lose interest and get bored, or accomplish and share all that they can, the charge is to move on. Don’t waste time – either your own or others’! 

 As you can see, the entire basis of these tech nights is to keep folks engaged, learning, and exploring! Any participant can suggest an issue – but they must have a real passion and the ability to start and lead a demonstration or discussion. OpenSpace fits in well within the Agile methodology. And what is that you ask? Well Agile is a project management style pretty common in the tech world. Essentially you build products by using short cycles of work that allow for rapid production and constant revision. By only concentrating on a few items each cycle, you’re able to accomplish a lot, and change easily should the project evolve.  

 While we use Agile quite frequently at ASI, OpenSpace was a fairly new concept to many of us. However, we’re finding it exceedingly encouraging, welcoming, and approachable. Our Tech Nights are still a work in progress, but our list of topics is growing – as is the interest!