I spent a very good few days at the OD World Summit in Budapest a couple of weeks ago. This event was notable in that it was organised to bring together the two main Organisational Development networks – OD Network (http://www.odnetwork.org – basically an American organisation) and the International OD Association (http://www.iodanet.org – the rest of the world) in an event organised by neither. The initiative was taken by a group of Hungarian OD people (applause, applause) to have a truly international gathering, which certainly paid off.
About 350 people assembled at the Marriott Hotel, Budapest (in a beautiful position right by the riven Danube) for a series of pre-event Masterclasses, plenaries, workshops, live work and social time. The event had backing from many international bodies supporting particular schools and methodologies (Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, World Cafe and so on) and I am thrilled to say that our own SFCT (http://www.asfct.org) was one of them. You can see the full list at http://www.odworldsummit.org/supporting-organizations.html.
The first day got off to an exceptional start with a ‘history of OD museum walk’. Three large rooms of exhibits had been assembled showing the development of society and also of OD from 1890 to the present day. We went around in groups, discussing how OD has reflected the times during the period and how it developed to reflect the needs of society – from the Taylorist factory models of the 1920s through Lewin, socio-technical paradigms, gestalt, systems thinking and the latest focus on conversation and emergence. This was followed by a plenary including Sandra Janoff (Future Search), Diana Whitney (Appreciative Inquiry), Janet Fiero (America Speaks/Twentieth Century Town Hall), John Nkum (Gestalt), Joseph Melnick (Gestalt, Cape Cod model), Sari van Poelje (Transactional Analysis) and Peggy Holman (Open Space).
The rest of the first two days were given over to workshops. I was involved in two – an experiential introduction to SF with Peter Roehrig and a conceptual introduction to SF and the ‘narrative emergence’ paradigm which Gale Miller and I have been working on recently. The latter was the first time I had presented on this topic, and I was pleased with the response – in fact both workshops attracted good audiences and were well received. Other SFers there included Kirsten Dierolf and Monika Houck presenting on a Hungarian case, and Yasuteru Aoki with a Japanese case. I was very please to meet other SF colleagues attending the event including SOLWorld 2011 organiser Eniko Tegyi (Hungary), Dainius Baltrusaitis and his colleague Arturis (Lithuania), Denise Wright (Singapore), and Svea Van Der Hoorn (South Africa). Here is a photo of some of us around the smart new SFCT banner.
The third day showed an interesting change of pace. Having got all the workshops out of the way, the organisers took us through a ritual connecting the past to the future and offered everyone the chance to collaborate on real pieces of work. Eight real client organisations showed up, and we split into groups to hear about their issues and propose ways to tackle this. Very interesting, and a nice way to work with people from different schools and perspectives. The day concluded with a riotous dinner, party and dancing.
The final day started with a plenary from Itay Talgam, an Israeli orchestral conductor, on how different leadership styles are visible on the concert podium. This was a real highlight – thought-provoking, moving and also very funny indeed. Talgam illustrated his talk with video clips of different conductors in action, from a highly authoritative Riccardo Muti to a highly minimal Leonard Bernstein (conducting Haydn using only his eyebrows!). Brilliant. Talgam gave a shorter version of this talk at TED Global in Oxford last year (I was also in the audience there too!) – you can see it at http://www.ted.com/talks/itay_talgam_lead_like_the_great_conductors.html.
The whole event was a great success. We managed to get SF more onto the OD landscape, and I had a good discussion afterwards with Peggy Holman whose recent book Embracing Emergence is a very nice collection of ideas about working with large groups to deliberately encourage useful things to happen. There is talk of another event in four years time (in the meantime the OD Network and IODA will continue their work) – sounds like a good idea to me.