For successful change – Momentum = Mass x Velocity

Posted by  Andrew Rixon —October 6, 2006
Filed in Collaboration, Communication

FishbowlToday the VPS Continuous Improvement Network experienced something unique. With Larry Peterson (a well known Canadian Open Space Practictioner) touring Australia, we had a great opportunity to try a new format for exploring and engaging conversation around “Leading complex change and opening space”.

The format? A fishbowl. With Larry inside!

Although not Open Space Technology the 4 four principles and one law of Open Space certainly applied and contributed to the way the fishbowl ran.

  • Whoever comes is the right people
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  • When it starts is the right time and When it’s over, it’s over.

The one law of Open Space invites people to take responsibility for where they are, and if they find that they aren’t learning or contributing, move to a place where they can. In this case, out of the fishbowl and allow for another particpant to join the conversation.

During the fishbowl Larry mentioned that Open Space was one of the most powerful technologies for change that he had worked with. I’d have to agree with him. The mathematician in me particularly enjoyed Larry’s description of how momentum = mass x velocity. And how for successful change it is important to have both elements in the equation. The whitepaper I wrote regarding the evaluation of an Open Space event I ran with a large scientific organisation seems to me to confirm how mass and velocity can result from the enhanced communication patterns and social networks created in Open Space Technology.

From the feedback it looks like people found it a very thought provoking session. I enjoyed it heaps! It was great working with Larry.

About  Andrew Rixon


  1. Robyn Ciuro says:

    This was my introduction to Open Space Technology and I was impressed with both the content and the “Fishbowl” concept which turned out to be a wonderful way to present the topic. Larry projected a very calm, relaxed manner that engendered a safe communication environment very quickly. Andrew’s unobtrusive and smooth facilitation supported this beautifully.
    The contributions of those who joined Larry in the Fishbowl over the course of the session made it clear to me that Open Space had engaged their imaginations and enthusiasm of what it might mean for them and their organisations.
    As someone who has spent a great deal of time encouraging leaders and managers to look beyond the organisational heirarchy, I was impressed by the observation of one participant who has used Open Space Technology in her organisation, that it revealed the deep structures of the organisation and shown her that leadership does not just reside in the managers.
    Good work by all involved.

  2. Yay for Larry…he’s a great brave soul. Glad you got a chance to pick his brain.

  3. We were pleasantly surprised with the number of participants willing to join the fishbowl and even more so with the conversation that followed. This was a conversation format that sufficiently engaged those in the fishbowl to offer forthright commentary that may not have otherwise surfaced in a ‘normal’ meeting format.Congratulations to Andrew and Larry for being able to engineer such a frank exchange.

  4. Andrew Peters says:

    After attending this session I am keen to learn more about open space – Does your organisation train people to be able to facilitate in this method ?

  5. Andrew Rixon says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Great to hear from you.
    Viv McWaters and Brian Bainbridge run training fairly regularly. I think there is a training session coming up at the end of this month.
    I’ll get Viv to post the details.
    Warm regards,

  6. Viv McWaters says:

    Hi Andrew and others
    There is indeed some Open Space Technology training coming up soon in Melbourne November 1 & 2. If you are interested drop me an email and I’ll send you the details.

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