Behind The Scenes

The Book Idea was Born

Jeroen Blijsie and David Sibbet, August 2014 in San Francisco

In 2014, Jeroen visited San Francisco. He was having vacation with is family in South-West the USA. He took the opportunity to pay a visit to The Grove offices at the beautiful Presidio de San Francisco, with a view on the Golden Gate Bridge.

David Sibbet was just having a coffee break and they had a ten minute chat. Jeroen told David he had just stepped into Visual Facilitation. David: “Jeroen, our field is exploding”. This was the moment Jeroen got the idea to write a new book on Visual Facilitation. Not knowing that one day fifty people would join him and David would write the foreword of this book.

Getting Co-authors on Board

A dinner at the IFVP Conference, Washington DC 2016

Two years had passed, when Jeroen made his first plan to write the book. Sitting in the conference room at the IFVP Conference in Washington DC, he was inspired by colleague visual facilitators and decided to ask people to join him as co-authors. That night he drafted the first book plan in his hotel room. The next day ten conference attendees said yes to his invitation to co-write. Among them Mia Liljeberg, Rosanna Von Sacken (3rd and 5th on above photo), Ben Tinker and Michelle Walker.

Brainstorm Continues

Book ideas on the table, 2016

Back home in The Netherlands, Jeroen continued thinking about it and refined his plan. But then the idea sat on a shelf for a year. Until the next IFVP Conference in Decatur, near Atlanta.

The Breakthrough

Mary Alice Arthur and Jeroen Blijsie at the IFVP Conference in Decatur, 2017


Just before this conference, anticipating on questions “how is your book progressing”? He quickly refreshed the book plan. Sharing the book idea again, quickly the number of co-authors doubled to twenty. It was getting serious and there was no way back. At one point Mara Callaert said to him “I am going to design your book!”. Yes! It was at the last day when in Greg Whicker’s Treasure Mapping workshop Jeroen ended up in a two-person group with Mary Alice Arthur. The only thing Jeroen wanted was to make a treasure map on the creation of the book. Mary Alice said: “All right, I will poke you a bit on your plan, while we draw the treasure map together.”

Putting Together the Editorial Team

At that point Jeroen decided to shape a serious book project, including asking two others to join him as co-editors. But how to pull off such a book project in reasonable time? As Mary Alice told him she had hosted a Book Sprint, Jeroen decided to just do that. But not before he had asked Tim Hamons and Rachel Smith  to join him in the co-editor team. A week later, Jeroen called Rachel Smith and she could not say no to his invitation to join him and Tim in the team.

At that point the book project started developing rapidly. Working together virtually from their home bases in The Netherlands, San Francisco and Singapore, they refined the book vision and planned the Book Sprint and Editorial Sprint.

The Book Sprint

On Monday January 22, 2018, a group of six people got together in a house at Nyenrode Business University in The Netherlands. It was Jeroen, Mary Alice and also co-authors from Belgium and Germany, as well as designer Norma Nardi. They knew that that night, ten co-authors in the Asia Pacific region already would start the Book Sprint, facilitated by Tim Hamons. Working from Australia, Singapore, Korea, Bali and Japan, they started working on the draft chapter they had already set up in the weeks before. Also, the co-editors invited them to review chapters-in-progress from other co-authors. This way, all were enabled to deliver high quality work in a short period of time.

Meeting co-authors in the Asia Pacific region

From the Dutch central Book Sprint Hub, Mary Alice hosted the virtual daily check-in and check-out meetings. It was her task to create the ‘container’ or ‘holding space’ in which all co-authors felt welcome and facilitated to co-create their contributions. Every meeting she took the time discussing questions like “where are you now?”, “what do you need?”, “what can you offer?” and “what have you learned about yourself?”. These questions evoked deep insights about the book creation process and really connected co-authors in their shared mission of creating The Visual Facilitation Field Guide.

This hosting freed the hands of Jeroen, Rachel and Tim to facilitate the co-authors working around the globe and around the clock. This combination of hosting and facilitation turned out to be very effective mix.

At 6PM CET, just before dinner at the Dutch Book Sprint Base, twenty-five co-authors in the USA, Canada and even one in Brazil had just woken up for their first Book Sprint day. Headquarters of this region was in The Grove offices in San Francisco. The writing process in this region was led by co-editor Rachel Smith. With the handful of people including Mary Alice on the screen, co-authors in this region had their first check-in meeting. The last region had started!

Check-in meeting with North American co-authors

Check-in meeting with co-authors the Americas region. Top right: Ben Tinker virtually hands over the ‘talking stick’ to Brian Tarallo.

Also the first day for this region came to an end and it was time to check out. As the adrenaline was flowing in Jeroen’s body, he decided to stay awake until 2AM CET to join the first check-out meeting. At 3AM he brushed his teeth with a big smile. The Book Sprint now really had started for everybody!

Co-authors about the book sprint

“I found this model an incredibly stimulating way to work. As we began to wind up and move to checking out on the first day…” read more of this: Co-author Amy Lenzo with her blog on the book sprint