Or: how organizations deal with boundaries (i) inspired by Seth Godin
flickr image (cc) by stomen
Parks made in GermanyThe Germans appoint committees or run a design contest, draw detailed plans, put them up for public comment, award the contract by bidding, fence off the area, lay the pavement, plant the greenery, seed the grass and finally have a ceremonial opening.
Weeks later, dirt tracks appear where people trampled across the lawn and authorities complain.
So they erect these signs "Betreten Verboten" (off limits, no step) you see above. With little or no visible effect.
Parks made in the NetherlandsThe Dutch, according to German folk legend, start the public bidding, award the contract, fence off the area, plant the greenery, seed the grass, remove the fence three weeks later and have a ceremonial opening. They let the people walk across the grass and another three weeks later lay the pavement where the dirt tracks formed.
Open Space to focus
For high-stakes meetings, especially in a business or political setting, Open Space Technologies appears promising, like "going Dutch" for building parks in public. In the quick general assembly people self-organize the topics and spaces, then attend where they feel they can contribute. The results are simply amazing, compared to prior attempts to maintain an illusion of management and control.
I would recommend this technology to President Obama, because he planned to bring many interested parties (tribes) to the table on contentious issues, such as he mentions in this candid president-candidate Q&A of 2007 November, about 50 minutes into the video.
Why it works
As for the “social engineering” aspect, if you wish to ease in on theory and practice of what happens on an open canvas of collaboration, and how it could possibly work, this book might be a useful primer:
Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World by Harrison Owen (2008)
Could the group phenomena of self-organization give us hints towards the exciting domain of Artificial Intuition (AN) so aptly described by Monica Anderson? Hat Tip to @VenessaMiemis for her blog and @mgusek555 for his tweets.