open space

Space matters. Also in workshops. Space is a message.

Apple is smart; its shops are famous, and inviting. Railway stations are also meeting spaces. The Swiss railway company SBB invests a lot to make them look welcoming and friendly. Around the signposted meeting points hundreds of people find each other every day.

The arrangement of meeting rooms gives a message too. Tables and chairs lined up in rows, or u-shapes, or chairs in a circle – the feeling is definitely not the same. While the first set-up could be for an exam, the second for a presentation; the third is invitingsconversation.

Professional conference organisers have an eye for the detail and the participants’ needs. A warm and welcoming entry and registration area with coffee tables and comfortable chairs invites to huddle together and have first informal exchanges. Posters or work of arts can provoke first discussions. Space matters to get people in, to connect them to each other, to get discussions going.

Jeff Hurt advocates to shape meeting space as learning space. The space should be open, free flowing and comfortable () once you enter, you feel like youre part of the community. You belong.

Harrison Owen developed Open Space, a workshop method by making the best out of coffee breaks (read the full story here).

Owen’s Open Space is more than ‘just a method’. Giving space goes deeper, it is a question of mind-set. Opening the space for participants in a workshop is about freedom and responsibility, about creativity and energy in an organisation and in life.

In German you can make wonderful word games with ‘space’. Space in German means ‘Raum’. The word combinations are about: open space, work space, and also about using space in the sense of scope of action or scope of decision making.

space mindmap

Sometimes a little bit of space is all you need to realize what you truly want.


What is your experience with space?