Book Sprinting: Sharing Stories and Working Collaboratively with Visual Facilitators from Around the
Question: How do you get a book to sprint? Answer: Give it wings!
“The Visual Facilitation Field Guide” is a comprehensive resource of tools, stories, and strategies, to support facilitators, coaches, trainers, communication designers who want to bring more visual mojo into their practice. Shaped by over 50 leading visual facilitators from around the world, and a team of 3 co-editors, this project, which started out as one person’s vision, has moved to catalyze a good percentage of our industry. Here is a look behind the scenes of how we got started, with some insights and tools which will help you to host a global collaborative creative project, or a small diverse team spread in various locations.
I met with Jeroen Blijsie, of The Visual Connection , over breakfast the day following the International Forum of Visual Practitioners Conference in Decatur 2017. He shared with me his vision for the book, as well as the drive behind doing it: to have a visual facilitator in every meeting. I shared mine as well: to bring visual practice and visual practitioners into more of the mainstream around the world and particularly in Asia. We both quickly realized the bigger picture possibility and potential of this project, and he soon invited both myself and then Rachel Smith of The Grove Consultants to join him.
Since Decatur, the 3 of us have been meeting regularly in Zoom meeting rooms, clarifying various aspects of the book, from the broad strokes to the details. We identified various topics for the book and then invited facilitators from our collective communities to contribute a chapter. As the list of both topics as well as co-authors grew, we considered various ways to approach the content development. The idea of a “book sprint” was suggested by Mary Alice Arthur, from her rich and varied experience as host of many diverse projects on storytelling and the Art of Hosting. Mary Alice was the overall host of the Decatur conference. Her role was to create an engaging environment for the participants as well as the presenters and to facilitate the conversations and activities which move the group and the objectives of the conference forward.
I observed the way that she masterfully weaves a group through a combination of dialogue, story, and process in a way that both respects and challenges, and brings everyone to realize the significance of the visual work we do and the possibilities we bring into form.
I had met Mary Alice before, at the IFVP/ EuViz Conference in Berlin 2014. I observed the way that she masterfully weaves a group through a combination of dialogue, story, and process in a way that both respects and challenges, and brings everyone to realize the significance of the visual work we do and the possibilities we bring into form.
An early meeting with Mary Alice and the gnome
So, we identified a book sprint as the format in which to bring each of the 40+ co-authors together from around the world. We set up 3 sprint locations, in Holland, SF, and Asia, hosted by the 3 of us. We each were responsible for managing a number of co-authors, decided initially based on geographic location, with Jeroen in Europe, Rachel in North America, myself in Asia/ Australia
The sprint was 3 days of focused work, where authors would show up and work on their own chapters, then when a break is needed, would review the chapters of another co-author. When a co-author decided that his draft was ready, he would invite 2 others to review. To build on the idea of global and local support, each co-author would invite another co-author from their core “local” group, as well as another co-author from one of the other 2 “global” groups.
To facilitate the process, we created a Trello board, an online productivity platform, and Google Docs for chapter creation and management. We used an interactive project dialogue space designed by The Grove Consultants called The GLEN (Global Learning Exchange Network) and created a Facebook page for discussions and sharing of the process to create engagement leading up the sprints.
From synopsis to revised draft: Our working process in a nutshell:
Co-author works in her chapter to bring it to a completed draft
She places this completed draft onto the Trello Board
She invites 2 other co-authors to review her chapter by tagging them on the trello board, with the understanding that this review process will be completed by the end of the 3-day sprint
While she is waiting for her chapter to be reviewed, she can indicate her availability to review other co-authors chapters via the daily check-in process, or on the Trello Board
Once each chapter is reviewed by 2 authors, it is moved forward the subsequent 2 steps to indicate the progress.
Our first-morning check-in for the Asia/ Australia Sprint
Individual authors made arrangements, some traveling to the sprint venue, and some deciding to work virtually. We each carefully thought through what would make the sprint experience valuable for the authors and began to design and create various aspects of the sprint. In each of the locations, we selected a venue. Jeroen had a castle in Holland which was an extension of a local university. Rachel engaged the offices of The Grove. I was planning between 2 different locations in Bali; a beautiful villa or an environmental school.
We set up a structure to have virtual check-ins between the different locations, to extend and build on the global community. This was an exciting part for me, as one of my primary objectives in joining as a co-editor was to connect the various communities of visual practitioners and especially those of us the Asian communities with the global communities. So, our check-ins worked like this. Each group would have both a morning and end of the day check-in. The morning check-in was focused on what I intend to create during the day, while the evening was sharing back on individual progress as well as what support is needed and next steps.
As co-editors, our time was spent in planning, preparing for and conducting our various meetings, and facilitating the supportive connections and feedback between the various authors in our cohort as well as liaising with the global team.
Map of the various co-authors and their chapter titles
Creating a container
We engaged Mary Alice as our book sprint host, who joined Jeroen in Holland to form the central hub for the sprint. Together, they facilitated a daily check-in with each of the 3 book sprint locations. As the host, it was Mary Alices’ task to create the container I had mentioned, which creates the space where all collaborators feel welcomed and encouraged to contribute their best work. During each of the meetings, she would ask a series of progressive questions such as:”where are you now”, “what do you need”, and “what can you offer”. At certain points in the meetings, more reflective questions such as”What is your big why” and “what are you learning about yourself” kept each of us connected to the overarching vision of the book while including everyone’s personal vision and insights.
The task of the host is to create a strong container, which creates the space where all collaborators feel welcomed and encouraged to contribute their best work.
The process included hosting and facilitation around a regular schedule that began each day in Asia, then to Holland, and finally in SF. Each meeting was available on the designated zoom room along the appointed time for each group. I jumped on to 2 of the check-in calls with the SF group which was late night at 1 am local time. This was an exciting process to connect with the larger scale of the sprint as this was our largest group with over 20+ co-authors both in-person and virtual.
Book sprint Day 2 : Asia/Australia Working space. Its my privilege to co-host this global collaboration
As travel to the suggested locations was not feasible for our group in Asia/ Australia, all of our meetings were virtual. We met in the Zoom room at 11 am and 5 pm. I worked from a co-working space, where I could set up various boards to both track progress as well as individual comments and requirements. In the 5 pm daily call, we were joined by Jeroen and Mary Alice from Holland. On our day 1 initial check-in call, I was joined in person by keynote speaker and visual process facilitator Mia Liljeberg from Sweden who was on a world tour with her husband at the time, and en route to GSS2018 in Aukland.
Here are a few things I learned about the hosting role and process:
Create a strong container for great co-working. This means to have a clear intention for each session, an agenda, aligning questions such as: What do I need, what can I offer?
Look for and facilitate supportive connections between co-authors. This consisted of identifying which authors could benefit most from another authors input, and look for synergies and overlaps.
Design the process as an event. What would we like to have accomplished by the end of day 1, day 2, with a clear vision of where we want to be at the end of day 3.
Connect to the vision of the project -Think through and look for meaningful and creative ways to stay connected to the vision and the spirit of the project.7
Stay connected to the Global team
Connecting with the global sprinters : checking-in with San Fransisco at 2am Singapore time
In addition, I felt a connection to each of the co-authors in my team and a personal stake in their success. I enjoyed this opportunity to move into peer coaching and a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. I could feel, through our personal attention and intentions, that we were creating the future of this field
I could feel, through our personal attention and intentions, that we were co-creating the future of this field
In the end, we had close to 50 co-authors who each submitted a chapter (or 2 in some cases). For those who submitted a draft, about 90% of these had gone through the designed review process where their chapter will be reviewed and given comments and feedback. So we were well on our way.
When Visual practitioners get together, you gotta play a little, too
In addition to the daily writing, reviewing, check-ins, and various meetings and progress tracking, we were doing other things to build and celebrate these informal gatherings of our community of visual practitioners. Jeroen could be seen cooking breakfast and hosting evening discussions around the fireplace in the castle in Holland. Mary Alice and Jeroen were interviewing co-authors on their vision and their chapters. In San Fransisco, Jill Greenbaum and Dean Meyers shared their creative facilitation tools of Zentangle and Lego Serious Play respectively. I’m a student and fan of improv theatre and have a continuing curiosity about the overlaps between improv and visual facilitation, so I designed a few activities and visual props along the way.
Celebration and Next Steps
A few days after the completion of the sprint, our co-editors team met for a debrief online. I toasted Jeroen and his vision with a late night Heineken beer, Rachel with her early morning coffee, and we each chimed in with “hartelijk gefeliciteerd” which is Dutch for “congratulations”.
There is much to do: reading, revising, editing, copyediting, marketing, design, publishing. We’re putting together the pieces of this big puzzle, and it works better with all of your collaborative efforts.
If you are interested to support us and be one of the first to get your hands on this powerful resource kit for visual facilitation, join us in our upcoming Kickstarter campaign in the link below. #VFFGLaunch
Check here to read more on the book sprint written by The Grove Consultants
Join us in one of our upcoming Visual Facilitation Lab or other customized trainings or inspiring and interactive presentations on the power of thinking, working, communicating visually held in Singapore and other locations around Asia.
Part 2 is the editing sprint scheduled for the first week of Feb in San Francisco.
Affirmations are always useful