The Age of the Internet blasted open the world’s minds for all to see and share, for better or worse. The Internet spurred a creative explosion never before seen in history and placed science and industry in the hands of unique human beings. The Internet can, by its very nature, only encompass the present and the past, while speculating on a variety of futures. The future we are destined to live lies in the hands, souls, and hearts of individuals who share the weave and warp of the human tapestry-the network that spontaneously lights up the world as connections for the future are sealed. This is not your grandfather’s network peddling products.
Leif Smith and his partner, Pat Wagner, founded a small business to serve the ancient and always emerging open network; the result of the best that humanity has to offer. Leif uses “Open Network” to name an emergent pattern of voluntary collaboration, a freeorder, comprised of and arising from all aspects of the world in which an explorer of sovereign spirit may rejoice. This network is very old. No one invented it.
Leif Smith explains, “Even in the age of the Internet, there is a need for curators, people with a point of view, as is found in great museums and libraries.” Only, open network curators do more than use the glories of the past to pollinate better futures. The curators, or weavers, notice arrows pointing forward to a future potential. The Office for Open Network opened in 1975 in Denver, Colorado. The idea of a business to serve open network was new, and it worked. The enterprise thrived and received national recognition in magazines and books. The concept was inclusive and nimble.
The Office for Open Network is now merely a number in an old phone directory. In this article we will refer to this idea as a network station.
Pat Wagner, Leif Smith’s partner described the effect:
“…The Office for Open Network is a network generator. People come to us with all kinds of quests, and we provide tools and maps, mostly in the form of connections with other people. The diversity of the quests is one thing that makes it a little different, because we do not have an agenda or agreed-upon goal.
There is no voting, no collective action. Each person arrives with his or her own ideas and visions and leaves with more ways to achieve the same. Our clients have come from all corners of American society as well as few from other countries….” Pat Wagner, Office for Open Network, Denver, 1975 to 2000, a short history
The network station was Leif Smith’s ground truthing, or testing, of a concept he calls freeorder. Later Leif founded the Explorers Foundation to advance the understanding freeorder and explains it as “…orders arising from freedom work best for people intent on using their full powers of imagination, reason, and action in pursuit of their individual happiness, and in service to people and things they love….”
The word ‘network’ clutters the national dialog moving it increasingly farther from the original intent. Network Station pioneers, Leif Smith, and Pat Wagner, respect the individual quest and appreciate the search may be dynamic and complex. Networking is the gentle, powerful process of preparing the wool of a quest into a fiber which weaves into a larger tapestry.
The quest is “teased” or “picked” through dialog designed to illuminate and understand fundamental ideas, hopes, or expectations of each explorer. This, then, is the beginning of the process of opening up the locks of the fleece of understanding and turning it into an ever-evolving web. The wool of ideas is opened and, as they expand, the spinning oil of the network station is added to align the quest’s fibers to slide against each other but also to stick together like a delicate web.
The network station aligns ideas, the core of the quest, much like carding wool. From here the patterns expand and evolve to become part of a larger tapestry called the network; ever-changing patterns of color and form as quests create, metamorphose, complete and begin anew. Network stations weave individuals, ideas, and journeys without demanding adherence to mind numbing protocols. Instead, these weavers stand as ready to network webs with quests in random alignment as they do when quests line up as neatly as worsted wool.
There are few rules in network stations, and these serve to support the process of network formation: 1. Be useful; 2. Don’t be boring; 3. Listen; 4. Ask questions; and 5. Play the wild card – don’t make assumptions. Describing the intricacies of a process where the roadmap is dictated by the skills of the network weaver addressing individuals versus the cudgel of a prescribed, one-size-fits-all fixed net is challenging. The care, attention, and respect of each journey requires an outlay of energetic by the weaver who nurtures the growth of the web. More than that, it requires restraint. It’s much easier to follow an approved solution and wash one’s hands of the outcome.
Network station operations require a high level of rigor combined with great intuition and the courage to act to make interesting, sometimes counterintuitive, connections—allowing freeorder to emerge. The hundreds of clients the Denver network station helped through the years proves the effectiveness of this particular combination. The signposts Leif Smith and Pat Wagner used to mark the path to the museum of the future did more than assist individuals in search of their unique dreams. As different expeditions followed their beacons to the future, many found, within themselves, the makings of future weavers. Pat and Leif encouraged the discoveries of self that may serve to populate the world with freeorder network generators who even now are reaching out to support and grow the next generation of weavers.
“…Consequently, our influence has grown far beyond our own dreams and visions. We have served hundreds of people, and, I hope, inspired them to conduct themselves in a way that emphasizes mutual aid and negotiation, rather than force.
For those of you who are concerned if a network generator can work, we know it can. Our willingness to abstain from attempts to control what our clients are doing and to apply only the simplest of traffic control restrictions, has created a rich pool of opportunities that accommodates many explorations. It is a learning community, where people come to acquire skill in living in a world where a voluntary “yes” and “no” are the norm….” Pat Wagner, Office for Open Network, Denver, 1975 to 2000, a short history
Success freed Leif Smith and Pat Wagner to explore subsequent missions. In 1982, Leif Smith and Pat Wagner created Pattern Research as an umbrella for an array of services, including training, consulting, and research. In April of 2004, Pattern Research, Inc. emerged, which led to the creation of a workplace education project called Siera: Learn. Teach. Inspire. (TM) 2012. Along the way, Leif Smith founded the Explorers Foundation to explore the emergence of freeorder.
“We stand together at the edge of something great. Call it the emergence of freeorder, the collaborative making of a world magnificently fit for explorers, and the development among ourselves of a people magnificently fit to live in such a world.
Such emergent collaboration depends on limits, differences, factions, lack of agreement, competition for resources of vision, mind, spirit, and matter.
This is a kind of collaboration beyond design, beyond possible agreement, founded on the deepest possible respect for the incomprehensible, inevitable, divergence of individual patterns of exploration.
There is a unity beyond all imaginable unities that only our respect for differences and limits can make possible.
Millions of individuals each differently probing the edge of chaos leave behind us a reef of unforeseen substance and beauty.
Our work will be preservation of the sea that makes such unplanned emergence possible.” Leif Smith, The Explorers Foundation
Pat Wagner; Free Webinar Open to all, The Networking Game – Siera
Mark Frazier; Openworld