People who know me well know about my "embarrassment rule" — that if I look back on something I finished a year ago, and I don't find anything to be embarrassed about, I get worried. Finding mistakes in what you've done in the past means you're moving forward. This page is for me to tell you what I would change in the book if I could change it right now.
Too much emphasis on big sticky notes
In retrospect, I was too vehement in my passion for large sticky notes in group sessions. I've facilitated a lot of large workshops with lots of people in big rooms, and for that situation you absolutely need large sticky notes, or nobody can see them. When I was writing the book, I judged too-small notes to be the bigger problem, so I warned people about it. However, some time after the book came out, I facilitated a very small session with only six people around one table, and the large sticky notes we used felt awkward and out of place. (I feel especially bad because the person who was running the session went out of his way to get large sticky notes because I said to.) So: if your group and room is very small, you should use smaller sticky notes.
Another version of twice-told stories
I found out after my book had gone to press that Paul Costello and some colleagues independently developed a story sharing exercise, which he calls "Living Stories," that is nearly identical to my "twice told stories" exercise. Amazingly, we each developed our exercises around the same time (around the turn of the last century), and I didn't know about the coincidence until recently. I'm sad that I found out about this after finishing my book, because I would definitely have put in a mention of Paul's work when I described the exercise.
I only found this out because David Hutchens' book Circle of the 9 Muses: A Storytelling Field Guide for Innovators and Meaning Makers mistakenly used my name for the exercise while attributing its development only to Paul. David told me he would fix this oversight pre-publication, but in the rush of things he forgot.
I would not want you, my readers, to think that I somehow stole the exercise from Paul Costello, or that I lied about working on it. In fact, I spent a year of research developing the exercise. It was my first foray into developing a story-related exercise, and I learned a lot from the experience, which I used while developing other exercises later. Anyway, I explained this issue in a blog post, so if you're curious, you can read that for a fuller explanation. I also recommend David's book as an excellent introduction to story work. It's shorter than my book, and it covers a lot more on the story-crafting side of things, so it's a good complement to what I've written.
As far as I know, Circle of the 9 Muses is the only place where you can find a description of Paul Costello's "Living Stories" exercise. I wouldn't recommend using Paul's exercise (as David explains it) for the open-ended story collection phase of PNI, because its "Create the Story Theatre" aspect is too leading/controlling for that moment. It would, however, be a great exercise to use in either sensemaking or intervention. In those stages of PNI, people don't need the freedom to say whatever they need to say without constraint or performance, because that's already happened (during collection).
Those first two paragraphs!
The first two paragraphs of the first chapter of the book have been bothering me a lot lately. They say:
Why are stories so important to human life? Because they are made of the same thing we are made of: time. Stories are tiny simulations of life itself. When I think of people and stories I always think of that line from the bible: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
That’s what people do. We treasure up things that happen — and things that could and couldn’t and should and shouldn’t happen — and we ponder them in our hearts. We build them and play with them and give and receive them as we make sense of the overarching stories that are our lives. This is what I mean by working with stories.
I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that. The break between those paragraphs is all wrong. It should have looked like this:
Why are stories so important to human life? Because they are made of the same thing we are made of: time. Stories are tiny simulations of life itself.
When I think of people and stories I always think of that line from the bible: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” That’s what people do. We treasure up things that happen — and things that could and couldn’t and should and shouldn’t happen — and we ponder them in our hearts. We build them and play with them and give and receive them as we make sense of the overarching stories that are our lives.
This is what I mean by working with stories.
I'm not about to venture into the wilds of LaTeX again for that one bad paragraph break, but I wish I could. When you read that chapter of the book, pretend it says that.
If you find an error in the book, please let me know. Whether it's a typo or a misunderstanding, I'd like to fix it.