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Friday, July 18, 2008

Open Space sessions

Upcoming august 2008 me and a colleague organize the first internal Open Space session for our company. Although the concept is not new, Open Space sessions date back from 1985, they gained momentum at Java Polis 2007. Here, Bruce Eckel held an excellent presentation about Open Space sessions.

I think knowledge and/or experience sharing is a key point in our profession as a software developer/engineer/architect etc. We constantly seek new and effective methods to share our knowledge. The most effective method for sharing knowledge is the one with the best cost/benefit tradeoffs. Costs have the form of the amount of time invested to prepare a session and the benefit is the amount of knowledge and experience shared amongst other colleagues.

The cost/benefit ratio of a traditional session/presentation is not very high. Usually, the preparation of a session costs far more than the benefit it gets. When this session is held multiple times, the cost/benefit ratio gets better. The format of a traditional session is of a very static nature. You have one or more presenters and a whole lot of attendees. The attendees do not know if the session is of any value for them. For some this may be the case and for others this may be not. Also, the attendees usually are not in the position to determine the subjects of the session.

Open Space sessions try to address these shortcomings. In an Open Space session the subject is determined by the attendees. The attendees seek a space where they can discuss/contribute and learn about the subject. One thing to remember in an open space session is the 'Law of the two feet'. This means: if you feel you do not learn anything or cannot contribute something meaningful to the session, use your two feet and seek another session which may interest you. This way you and the other attendees get the most value from a session.

I will post our experiences and the way we organize our Open Space session in the next month. Stay tuned...

More information about Open Space sessions can be found at:

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