A pause for reflection: Where we have been and where we are going?

To document a fantastic year ending, and to and celebrate a bright, new year’s beginning, the Book Sprints bunch sat down to share reflections and learnings from 2019. We hope you enjoy!

Q: How many Sprints did the team do this year? 

A: 18 Book Sprints in total. In one of them, 3 books were updated and new content added, so you could also say we had 20 resulting books (4 of them updated and expanded versions of earlier editions), and also online courses.

Q: Were any in new places we haven’t visited before? If so, where?

A: Singapore, Doha (Qatar), Honolulu, Banff (Canada), Lisbon, a lake close to Geneva, Miami Beach, Bad Reichenhall (Bavaria) – many of them in stunning mountain or beach settings.

Q: We often do Book Sprints with diverse organisation types, so please tell us a bit about these loyal customers and the kinds of value they gain working with us.

A: Some organisations have been working with us for years, sometimes on an annual basis, sometimes up to four times a year.  Among them, the African Legal Support Facility under the African Development Bank, and the Commercial Law Development Program within the US Department of Commerce stand out. They usually bring together large groups of lawyers, ministry representatives, and economists, who use the opportunity to bring their different perspectives together in ways they don’t often have a chance to. Another returning client is Haufe, a German publisher and consultancy, who sprinted their second book with us this year, making use both of the collaborative aspect and the fast turnaround times. 

Q: What new organisations employed the Book Sprints process in 2019? How did they hear about us and how did they go?

A: We had a lot of new organisations working with us this year, many of them in the field of academia. EPIC (European-Pacific Partnership for ICT Collaboration in research, development and innovation (“EPIC”) sprinted a book on “Ethics in Robotics and AI,” more info here: https://epicproject.eu/index.php?id=88

One of the writers had organised another Book Sprint on Human-Robotic interactions before, so he brought the idea to this group.

The University of Hawai’i sprinted two OER textbooks. They had followed interesting publishing models and Book Sprints for years before coming to us with this project.

The German university IUBH sprinted a script for an online course on “New Work,” after reading about Book Sprints online.

The academic project “Precarity Lab” had also been following Book Sprints online for a while, before sprinting the book “Techno-Precarious” last year. 

Q: Sprint Lab launched within the last year, and already five Sprints Lab experiments have pushed on the boundaries of the traditional Book Sprints method through this experimental space. How did it feel to bring this vision to life after 10 years of perfecting the Book Sprint method?

A: The time was simply right. Once we decided to open ourselves up to experiment with new formats and design variations on our proven method, the projects just came by themselves. Some were OER textbooks and online courses, and several were book updates – new editions with new content, but also corrections to the existing content. In the past, we might have turned away some of these projects. We always make it a point to advise groups to set up Book Sprints that can be successful, and if we think the conditions aren’t quite right, we would advise against using the Book Sprints method. Now with the Sprint Lab we have an extra process to map out new workflows and how they could meet the client’s needs, and when we think it could be successful, we give it a try as a Sprint Lab experiment. So far the results have proven us right, and it’s been a great journey of learning and growth for our team.

Q: The organisation grew as well in 2019! Please tell us a bit about the drivers that led to this, as well as a bit about the teams that have grown.

A: To keep up with a growing number of Book Sprints we do each year, and the increasing professionalisation and improved workflows we employ, we added new team members in almost every department: new copy-editors, book designers, and facilitators that strengthen our team during the Book Sprints, and project managers and communicators that work behind the scenes. Usually the team members of one department choose and train the next person to reinforce their department, which has been working really well. It also ensures that every new member has a direct support system in place, and an introduction to our almost entirely remote workstyle. Each new team member has been an amazing addition, and we are very happy about the way the company is growing organically.

Q: We appeared at a number of meetings and conferences. Was this more than usual for the team? Will we seek to keep up this kind of outreach and why?

We do several meetings and conferences each year, which has always been a valuable way to stay in touch and share with a wider community. What is perhaps new is that we now receive invitations rather than applying to conferences, including some keynotes. We’d like to do this even more, but 2019 kept us busy, so hopefully this year we’ll have some more time.

Q: What was our proudest moment within this year full of milestones?

A: We still have a team assessment of our milestones coming up. We already know that there are quite a few that we didn’t meet, because we have always put the book projects first, and there were so many they kept us really busy. Highlights surely include the Sprint Lab projects, the growing team, a facilitator meeting of all facilitators, who worked on an internal handbook together, and a redesign of our office space in Berlin, including some book art that we fell in love with.

Q: Focusing on this year ahead, what are your predictions? What can the world expect from Book Sprints in the year ahead?

A: We already have a good number of Book Sprints scheduled for 2020, so it is looking to be another busy year! We hope to improve our workflows to make the processes even smoother and more fun for both our team and our clients. And we’d like to carry the idea of Book Sprints into new fields that haven’t even heard about the method yet, but that could really benefit from these kinds of knowledge sharing and production formats.

Q: If you were to organise a ‘dream Book Sprint’ in 2020, what would it be?

A: Any Book Sprint with an interested and knowledgeable team of writers, without egos but a real delight in intense collaboration, in a pleasant, distraction-free surrounding and with good food, is a dream Book Sprint.

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