An Open Space ‘Surfing’ Metaphor

Posted by  admin —August 4, 2008
Filed in Facilitation

Over at Winkipod, Harrison Owen launches his new book (at the 2008 OSonOS) and in this Winkipodcast, Harrison explores a metaphor that links surfing at MavericksOpen Space Technology and Self Organising systems. Given Viv and I named our podcasting blog (Winkipod) after another famous surf break (Winkipop) … it has added significance.

Here is Mavericks … where the surfer is not in control of this wave!

Mavericks Surf Break

Here is Harrison Owen’s Mavericks metaphor (from the podcast above) …

Mavericks is a world class surf break (with incredible power) that comes into northern California. Surfers show up when Mavericks is “on” and when they are out in the line up they know one thing … “they are not in charge of the wave!”

“And if you think about this marvelous image … here’s this enormous self organising system otherwise known as the Pacific Ocean. Which generated this little ripple and and did this, that and other and finally showed up just south of here and a 30 foot wave hits.

Now when you start riding that wave … you understand that you are not in control of that wave! Furthermore you understand that to the extent that you align yourself with the force and power of that wave, you have the ride of your life.

So for me everytime I find myself in an Open Space, for me its practicing wave riding. Its learning how to [?capture or harness?] the flow and energy and power … which is just a naturally occurring thing.

For me the key message here is about letting go of control. It’s about stepping back and applying the ‘less is more’ principle. Its about trusting the human capacity to self organise … something that we have done for 60,000 years and something that the planet has been doing for 4 billions years. 

As a facilitator, it’s about ‘getting out of the way’ of groups that I work with and hold spaces in which they can self organise and do their best work. 

As a surfer, it’s about becoming more present with the waves … learning to ‘go with it’ and make more mistakes … yes more mistakes! Fear of falling off the wave has been the 1 thing holding me back for 8 years. My confidence will not come from jumping to my feet and riding without falling … instead it will come from not being fearful of making mistakes.



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