After organizational consultant Harrison Owen had observed that participants of conferences often seemed more exhilarated by conversations they had during breaks than by the conference itself, he began to examine the break process and developed an open type of conference with the "coffee break" as its central element.

The so called open space enables up to 750 people at a time to deal with complex issues and simultaneously maintain a maximum level of self-organization. In the classical open space conference the participants themselves determine what items they would like on the agenda. Each person takes full responsibility for where and when they will participate during the conference.

The only guideline of an open space conference is a general topic that is up for discussion over a three-day period. The participants need to feel that the topic is important and that they can only solve it as a group. It, furthermore, needs to be broad enough to provide room for ideas and creativity. Appropriate topics would be, for instance, the future of the company, the improvement of service quality, or cooperation between departments.

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