Within a meeting format called Open Space Technology, there is something referenced as the one law that needs to be followed by the participants – the Law of Two Feet. Within the simple and effective structure of the Open Space Technology meeting, there is no pre-determined agenda. Rather, the participants are given the opportunity to post topics for which they deeply care and are willing to lead a discussion group about their topic. Topics go up onto an agenda wall and are organized according to time of start and location for the discussion. Participants sign up based on what they are interested in.
Now comes the importance of the Law of Two Feet (Law of Mobility). The facilitator stresses the importance of this one Law governing participant behavior in the meeting by saying something like:
“If you are in a discussion group and you are neither learning nor contributing, your knowledge and energy are too important to us to have it wasted. Use the Law of Two Feet to take yourself to where you are learning or contributing. You have ways of being mobile, use those ways so that you can get the best benefit from this experience, and so the others can get the best benefit from you. You might end up being like a butterfly and alighting somewhere not seeming to do anything, but we trust that you are in exactly the right place to be learning or contributing. You might be like a bumblebee and go from group to group to group, cross-pollinating many discussions. We trust that it is exactly right for you to be moving frequently as you choose how you learn and contribute. With all of us using the Law of Two Feet, we respect that this is an important behavior to get the greatest benefit during an OST meeting. At no time is anyone’s knowledge or energy wasted when we all pay attention to this law.”
Effects of the Law of Two Feet
This Law of Two Feet has a profound effect on people during the meeting with its emphasis on the benefits of the meeting for each person being the responsibility of that person. It is up to the person to use personal leadership to make choices throughout the meeting. The choices include (and are not limited to) choosing to:
- show up and be fully present during the meeting
- post a topic of interest to oneself, be it a micro topic or a macro topic
- lead a group discussion
- give value to one’s own learning
- give value to what one has to contribute
- be willing to engage positively with the meeting, moving beyond judgment about the meeting being good or bad
- be open to outcomes from the many participants recognizing that each did their best with personal learning and contributing
Now imagine if this Law of Two Feet, once experienced in an Open Space Technology meeting, became a norm for behavior in the organization every day. Using this Law of Two Feet in the daily life of the organization would bring about a shift in culture and a shift in results that would be profound. In our work, we have found that for this profound effect on the culture and results to be experienced, it is important to begin with a single Open Space Technology meeting for the shared experience of how this Law of Two Feet impacts people, process, and results.
Learn With Us: Working with Open Space Technology
Join us in learning more about Working With Open Space Technology.
You are invited to learn a simple to use multi-purpose method for leading highly participatory meetings involving from 7 to 1000 people. These meetings produce tangible results towards your business goals and achieve maximum participation, inspired creativity, and the best solutions from the collective of individuals involved. Open Space Technology (OST) was developed by Harrison Owen of Maryland, USA and has been used in almost every country in the world, with a twenty-year history of consistently exceptional results. Learn the Genuine Contact way of working with OST to achieve the greatest benefit for the organization.
Photo by Kyle Anderson on Unsplash
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