The overarching approach we use at Kinnford Consulting – especially for our facilitation, and strategy/planning services – is broadly consistent with a set of techniques often referred to as ‘Open Space Technology’ (read more about Open Space at openspaceworld.org).

This approach has been around for about three decades, and is growing in popularity and importance as the pace and complexity of organisational change increases, and disenchantment with traditional meeting and conference formats grows. Open space techniques are the basis for a powerful approach to leadership and change—not only do they provide a simple and effective way to run highly productive meetings for day-to-day work, but they come into their own in times of change.

Core insights that underpin how we use and adapt OS methods are:

  • “The answer is usually in the room” – good, robust conversational techniques draw them out
  • All ideas get a chance to be voiced and heard – no single person sets the agenda or dominates the discussion and ensures that ‘introverts’ get a voice
  • Natural conversation in ‘right-sized’ groups generates richer results than ‘talking heads’ or large meetings
  • Interactivity is more effective than passivity in general, and adults in particular learn and share actively and experientially

Dave Snowdon argues that, “We know more than we say; we say more than we write; we don’t know what we know until we need to use it.” Knowing this, we focus on getting people to talk about real cases, and have well developed methods for capturing and documenting discussion outcomes on the spot. This fuels forward momentum and reduces post-workshop inertia.

We deploy, adapt, and augment techniques such as World Café, Fishbowl, Dotmocracy, and Future Backwards. We also use approaches such as Kegan and Lahey’s ‘Competing Commitments’, Edward de Bono’s ideas on creativity, Dave Snowdon on complexity and sense-making, and Chris Argyris (Model 1 and Model 2 reasoning).

“With groups of 5 to 2000+ people — working in one-day workshops, three-day conferences, or the regular weekly staff meeting — the common result is a powerful, effective connecting and strengthening of what’s already happening in the organization: planning and action, learning and doing, passion and responsibility, participation and performance.”

“It is literally possible to accomplish in days and weeks what some other approaches take months and years to do”. Michael Herman

The techniques are effective in many situations, but they are particularly effective when:

  • the work is complex
  • there are multiple people and ideas involved
  • the stakes are high
  • time is tight

We use OS when our clients want to:

  • Solve problems. It brings people together to understand a problem and seek a shared solution.
  • Plan. It supports strategic and business planning, helping to identify goals and actions.
  • Share and synthesise knowledge. People need to reflect on lessons and apply them to future work.
  • Build communities, teams and networks. This is usually a secondary benefit, generated from working together in small and large groups.


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