Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book: Harrison Owen - Wave Rider

Everyone dealing with self-organizing teams should read this book!

Authors: Harrison Owen

Rating: highly recommended

Have you ever wondered why in a well-defined organization there are always a few "key" people who know how things really do work? Have you ever thought about how to plan and deliver the daily food supplies for several million people? Read this book to find out.

In the first part of this book Harrison Owen offers deep theoretical insights of High Performance Systems, Self-Organization, and Open Space Technology. According to his definition, the three major elements of High Performance are chaos, confusion, and conflict, which lead to wholeness, health, and harmony--be it in small teams or large organizations. He states the necessity of grief work at the end of anything, and that--although highly important--such grief work rarely happens. The reason of missing self-organization is the need of control coming from traditional habits and thinking.

The second part of the book is written for practitioners and shows "eight essential steps for the care and feeding of self-organizing systems":

  1. Do Your Homework Before You Start.
  2. Extend an Invitation.
  3. Come to the Circle.
  4. Welcome Passion, Responsibility, and Authentic Leadership.
  5. Remember the Four Principles.
  6. Observe the Law of Two Feet.
  7. Keep Grief Working.
  8. Formalize the System.
This may sound weird at the first look but it gives a very nice description how Open Space works and how to do it.


The book is an eye-opener and offers so many insights why and how self-organizing systems work. The level of understanding one may reach by reading this book is not restricted to Open Space but is applicable to any organizational structure.

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