(2011-08-27) Owen Asymmetry Everywhere

Harrison Owen contemplates the new messiness (Complex System, Collapse). Supposing everything is asymmetrical?... . Just for the sake of the argument, follow the curve and think about the possibilities. 7 billion folks all connected! Most of the possibilities are simply unthinkable – but one would be a reality. When it came time for a global conversation (Disputation Arena) on critical issues – there could be 7 billion people at the conference table... Perhaps the time is right to bite the bullet and admit that it is not that we are doing something wrong – we are doing the wrong thing... And what would be the alternative? We might start with the possibility that this asymmetric world, which appears as the confounding nemesis to our perception of the ordered environment in which proper statecraft is practiced between proper Nation-State-s – is in fact replete with its own Pattern-s and symmetries. The only problem is, they are not of our design or making, and for sure we cannot control them... Is humanity, in all of its parts and pieces, also a Complex Adaptive Systems? At some level it would be very strange if we were not, for if Self Organization is a fundamental mechanism underlying all of the cosmos, we might equally escape the force of gravity... If so, could we learn to leverage the natural power of self organization in order to achieve useful results? We are a long way from anything looking like a definitive answer, but an interesting 25 year natural experiment has brought us, I believe, to a point where the answer is no longer an esoteric hypothetical. My friends and colleagues will know exactly where I am heading: Open Space Technology (OST). For those of you unfamiliar with OST, a brief description is in order. OST is a simple process which enables groups of people to deal with hugely complex and conflicted issues with little advance preparation and minimal facilitation... OST always works – provided certain conditions are present. A real issue of concern, lots of complexity, rich diversity of opinion and participants, plenty of conflict and passion, and a genuine sense of urgency. Perhaps most remarkable, it all takes place pretty much, “all by itself.”... There is no Plan in the normal sense of that word, just a focal theme and few basic principles. Truth to tell, nobody has any idea of precisely what will happen, when it might start, or where it will go. And that includes the facilitator, who generally will have less idea of likely occurrences and potential outcomes than the participants, if only because he or she is usually a stranger to the group and unaware of “usual behaviors.”... Actually I think Open Space Technology is only a halfway technology. I am sure we can do better if we were to follow our noses and build upon our experience... We are all aware of the euphoria that breaks out during revolutionary moments. We are also aware that it is typically and tragically short lived. But here is where the “more” comes in. Just suppose that the revolutionary euphoria was also a natural occurrence of what we consistently see in Open Space. And if so, could we learn to ride the waves and sustain the outcomes? We have learned to do something of the sort in narrow confines of an Open Space gathering and what comes after. Could that learning have broader application?


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