Open Space technology is a lot like multi-threaded Lean Coffee over a longer period of time. If you’re still reading, this will make more sense very soon!

A Lean Coffee meeting is self-organizing. The people who attend the meeting suggest what should be discussed. Everyone expresses their preferences, often by dot-voting for their three highest priorities. The topic with the most votes is discussed first, after a few minutes the group votes if they should continue to discuss the topic or move on to the next topic. The highest priority topics are addressed, the lower priority items may not fit into the meeting at all.

In Open Space meeting, a space-and-time grid is proposed - perhaps three rooms for one hour intervals for 5 hours. Participants suggest discussions/meetings and schedule them into a room at a time. People negotiate commonalities and overlaps. They try to schedule their discussion when it doesn’t preclude attendance of other discussions they are interested in. When the first time slot starts, people vote with their feet. They attend the session that most interests them, often by walking there. Some discussions will be large, some will not happen. Some will run long and need to find a new space to continue.

Both Lean Coffee and Open Space maximize the alignment of the discussions with the participants’ priorities and interests. Both need much leadership from the group. Both need much collaboration and respect within the group. Both result in very interesting discussions. One needs more space and time.