How to teach anything (Open Space Rules)

Not only was I fortunate to attend Play4Agile in Germany this week, I also had the privilege of working with the organizing team to act as a Spirit Keeper and help with facilitation. During the opening on Friday night we played Constellations and observed that a lot of people already knew Open Space. So how to explain Open Space rules so that newbies learn enough and yet avoid boring the veterans to death? The answer comes from Training from the back of the room: let them teach each other. Then newbies get individual attention and veterans learn it better by teaching it.

I realized later that this pattern can be used for teaching anything (with help). Not just Open Space rules. See the five simple steps in the diagram below:


  1. Fist of five for checking the knowledge level of everyone in the room. Let them know to keep their arms and fingers up. (Oops. Not sure what this is really called. Fist of five is actually something different. Please comment if you know…)
  2. Have them form diverse groups (people with different knowledge levels) of 5 to 7 people. Smaller groups may work well too.
  3. In small groups, knowledgeable people teach the new folks. In my group, we took turns explaining key concepts and let newbies drive learning by asking questions. Hang posters high enough so people can see them when everyone is standing.
  4. (Optional) Each group can check how successful learning was using fist of five.
  5. In the large group, ask the people who learned the most to share one key learning.

Many thanks for Katrin Elster for helping develop the approach and to Marc Bless for a great facilitation – it rocked!

Michael K Sahota guides and teaches leaders how to create high-performance organizations. He is the creator of a proven system for leading change through a practical playbook. His model for Consciously Approaching Agile guides the creation of a cultural and leadership context where Agile creates lasting organizational results. Michael has taught over 1000 leaders worldwide through his highly acclaimed “Agile” Culture & Leadership Training. His company, Agilitrix, delivers “Agile Transformation- Redefined” with an elite team of consultants who specialize in unlocking Culture.

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