Authenticity? Let’s be Real.

Buzzwords. They can make us roll our eyes, especially if it feels like the context they’re brought up in isn’t genuine.

Earlier this week I was graphic recording for a company that’s had to do some soul searching this year, and as a result, is focusing on infusing integrity into the day-to-day culture. During a brainstorming session on culture and values, someone said “…unscripted feels more authentic.”  

Although it was made almost in passing in the conversation, it really resonated with the group after the formal conversation ended as they were revisiting the content on my recording.

For leaders or team members who feel stuck when seeking to have authentic conversations with their teams at work, I recommend taking a chance on “going unscripted”.

Now, this may not mean just winging it every time -- there’s certainly wisdom in practicing what you want to say (authentic ≠ excuse to be callous and blunt). Rather, think about how you can use the power of speaking from your heart to connect with and inspire others around you.

Feeling the authentic vibes and want more? Read on my friend!

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Washington, DC  with the Environmental Defense Fund. We are in the middle of a series of systems thinking workshops to help two teams re-frame how they’re approaching their work around agriculture and pollinator habitat.

Washington, DC with the Environmental Defense Fund. We are in the middle of a series of systems thinking workshops to help two teams re-frame how they’re approaching their work around agriculture and pollinator habitat.

  Stamford, Connecticut  for the kickoff of an Ethics Week focusing on integrity in action. This is part of a synthesis of survey themes from employees that I created ahead of time for the client. Major kudos to the team there for their creativity and for facilitating the conversation that inspired this email!

Stamford, Connecticut for the kickoff of an Ethics Week focusing on integrity in action. This is part of a synthesis of survey themes from employees that I created ahead of time for the client. Major kudos to the team there for their creativity and for facilitating the conversation that inspired this email!

Overwhelm? Strategies to Overcome!

We’ve all felt it - this time of year can be simultaneously wonderful and stressful. Between wrapping up presents and wrapping up projects, planning parties and planning the next year’s strategies, it’s not hard to slip down the slope of feeling overwhelmed.

This exact thing happened to me last night, and I found myself worked up and worried I was missing important to-dos.

I wanted to share with you a few of the strategies I used last night, and a few more that you can mix and match to overcome that feeling of overwhelm, so you can focus on the slippery snowboard/ski/sledding slope instead.

  • Write down everything you’re stressed about or that’s floating around in your mind. Work, personal life, projects, people to call, gifts to give. You can sort it into categories if you want to, or just go for it and get everything down. Often seeing it on paper shows me there’s less going on than I think before I start writing, or some of it isn’t as big a deal as I’ve been making it in my head.

  • Next, write down everything you’re appreciative of or thankful for. Again, just start somewhere and write until you’ve gotten everything out you can possibly think of to be grateful for. I find that when I take a moment to appreciate all of the amazing things that are happening, whether it’s the fact that my heart beats without me having to think about it or for someone who did something unexpectedly kind, this practice is a powerful tool to shift my entire energy. I might even do a little abunDANCE.

  • Now that you’re feeling clear about exactly what’s on your plate and you’re feeling pretty great about this crazy thing we call life, you can come back to that list. I like to pick three things that are priorities and I can work on right now.

  • Set a timer and crank! Length depends, but I like to focus for 42 minutes, then take a break for 18 minutes - here’s a post about my strategy for using the timer and a couple other favorite productivity tools.

  • Walk away (then come back). Sometimes after making a list of everything I’ve got going on, I need to step away and clear my mind. Exercising, stretching, watering plants, meditating, whatever to get yourself in a physically new space to be able to let go for a bit. Then, once the mind is refreshed, coming back and making a plan of attack is a little easier.

  • Finally, be kind to yourself. You’re human, and a damn fine one at that. You work hard, but remember also to give yourself time to refresh. You’re generous with others, so do yourself the favor of being generous with yourself too.

conversketch_abun-dance

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  On Vacation!  I took last week completely off and spent time with my partner and family. :D

On Vacation! I took last week completely off and spent time with my partner and family. :D

  In the Studio:  Filming a  video  about enjoying our national parks safely in hot weather.

In the Studio: Filming a video about enjoying our national parks safely in hot weather.

Here's What Your Design Thinking Process is Missing

Have you ever been invited to participate in or heard about a Design Sprint? Design thinking, design sprints, agile, human-centered design thinking, all of these terms have been popping into my world more often.

As tools used to innovate and spark creativity, if you’re using design thinking but haven’t partnered with a graphic recorder, you’re missing out on huge potential to support your team through visual thinking.

But wait, aren’t design thinking and visual thinking pretty much the same thing? Well, no. But I love this excellent post and illustration from Xplane to see the difference, and where some opportunities exist to infuse visual thinking into design thinking:

xplane-visual-thinking-design-thinking

Have you used any of these tools or strategies? How did it go? What other visual thinking tools are in the top drawer of your toolbox?

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Albuquerque, New Mexico:  Returning to support the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force for their Hospitals and Clinics Summit. These practitioners work hard every day to help educate and support new mothers so they can make the healthiest decisions for themselves and their babies.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: Returning to support the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force for their Hospitals and Clinics Summit. These practitioners work hard every day to help educate and support new mothers so they can make the healthiest decisions for themselves and their babies.

  Painting in the Studio:  Not only am I working on filming another  Drawing Connections video  for the National Park Service, I’ve had some time in the past couple of weeks to do some painting for fun. This one of the Nokhu Crags went to the  Samburu Youth Education Fund  Harambe to raise money for education and leadership development for young people in Kenya.  Here’s a post  about why I care so much!   Please  contact me  for inquiries on commissions.

Painting in the Studio: Not only am I working on filming another Drawing Connections video for the National Park Service, I’ve had some time in the past couple of weeks to do some painting for fun. This one of the Nokhu Crags went to the Samburu Youth Education Fund Harambe to raise money for education and leadership development for young people in Kenya. Here’s a post about why I care so much!

Please contact me for inquiries on commissions.

Secrets Revealed: Tools of the Trade

Have you ever seen a graphic recorder holding approximately 15 markers at once while capturing content at an event?  Where did they even GET markers that big? And what are they doing with that crazy squeeze bottle thing?

Today I’d like to share some of my favorite tools of the trade for working on paper, whiteboards, or digital scribing. Curious about when and why to draw on paper vs. using a computer for creative work? Here’s a post with my thoughts for you!

conversketch-neuland-micron-markers

Paper or foam board: The surface I work on most is paper, and my go-to markers are the remarkable, re-fillable Neulands. They have wonderful chisel, brush, and round tips (which can be replaced when they get too soft), and come in regular and extra large sizes. They are water based and don’t smell, and even offer a black Outliner which won’t smear or blend with other colors. Very much my favorite markers!

When working on paper, I also really enjoy using chalk pastels to blend and add a soft, artistic swath of color.

When sketchnoting or working in a notebook, I love Micron pens in different sizes, which dry waterproof and are pleasing to write or draw with. While not refillable, they last a long time and are quality ink.

conversketch-markers-pilot

Whiteboards: A new find for me has been Pilot whiteboard markers. Also refillable, the colors are decent and the chisel tips are solid.

conversketch-microsoft-surface-pro-4-sketchbook

Digital: Most of the graphic recorders I know use an iPad Pro and the Procreate app to do quality digital work, but for now I’m enjoying using my Surface Pro 4 and the pen that comes with it using Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro. The customizable brushes and colors are top-notch, and the tool isn’t as complicated as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, although the Surface has the edge over the iPad as it can run full Adobe programs smoothly. Using a tablet to scribe can be useful for studio jobs which end up with lots of changes, or for projecting large-scale on a screen for large groups at events.

What are your favorite tools to draw or create art? Let me know in the comments below!

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Want to see those tools in action for your project?

 

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 Salt Lake City: Graphic facilitating a retreat for a team of researchers for a new series of illustrated videos. We did a scoping retreat to brainstorm and refine ideas for the stories we’ll translate into their videos in the coming months.

Salt Lake City: Graphic facilitating a retreat for a team of researchers for a new series of illustrated videos. We did a scoping retreat to brainstorm and refine ideas for the stories we’ll translate into their videos in the coming months.

 Fort Collins: With the Environmental Defense Fund, graphic recording a systems thinking retreat focused on habitat for Monarch Butterflies in the mid-west US.

Fort Collins: With the Environmental Defense Fund, graphic recording a systems thinking retreat focused on habitat for Monarch Butterflies in the mid-west US.

So You Think You Can't Draw. I beg to Differ.

It’s been a crackling fall here at ConverSketch HQ, but I can’t wait to share this with you…the 100th Piano has found it’s way to a final home for the winter in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! You can find it in the section displaying Fort Collins’ history, and perhaps play a little tune!

karina-branson-100th-piano-about-town-fort-collins

One of the things I often hear when I whip out my markers and start scribing is “I could never draw like that.” I typically fire back the following response: “When was the last time you practiced?”

In anything, talent is certainly a factor, but something I believe many of us write off is the importance of practicing consistently. Would you run a marathon without training? Probably not!

I have never found drawing people to be particularly easy to do, but this year I’ve set out to improve my speed and creativity when drawing more detailed people. I DO love squiggle and bean-shape people  and there’s an enormous amount of information you can convey with even a simple human figure.

And, if you’re interested in learning to draw other things, check out almost any of my blog posts to learn how to do a quick sketch of something new. Don’t see what you want to learn to draw? Shoot me a message to let me know what you’d like to see!

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

   Graphic Facilitation    for the National Snow and Ice Data Center:  NSIDC is a repeat graphic facilitation client who I was delighted to hear has kept their strategic illustration from 2013 up on the walls to remind them of their shared vision, goals and the roadmap to get there.

Graphic Facilitation for the National Snow and Ice Data Center: NSIDC is a repeat graphic facilitation client who I was delighted to hear has kept their strategic illustration from 2013 up on the walls to remind them of their shared vision, goals and the roadmap to get there.



  Technology and Higher Education at Metro State:  Creating a Story Map of the outcomes of a Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium where teams shared prototypes and offered feedback to leverage tech to enhance learning in higher education.

Technology and Higher Education at Metro State: Creating a Story Map of the outcomes of a Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium where teams shared prototypes and offered feedback to leverage tech to enhance learning in higher education.



  Leadership Declarations in Virginia:  A curious challenge posed by this foundation client who wanted to give each participant the visual capture of their personal Leadership Declaration. The challenge? Fellows were leaving immediately following the session and needed to be able to travel with their drawings, so here’s what we came up with!

Leadership Declarations in Virginia: A curious challenge posed by this foundation client who wanted to give each participant the visual capture of their personal Leadership Declaration. The challenge? Fellows were leaving immediately following the session and needed to be able to travel with their drawings, so here’s what we came up with!

  Optics Innovation in Austin:  Thinking critically about what the future could hold and how the eye care industry will navigate a swiftly changing landscape.

Optics Innovation in Austin: Thinking critically about what the future could hold and how the eye care industry will navigate a swiftly changing landscape.

How the Best Leaders Make Solid Decisions

In my last newsletter, I shared one characteristic that contributes to strong leadership. And while I think that listening is a key trait to great leaders, I’d like to dig a little deeper into a particular aspect of this idea: HOW and to WHOM they are listening.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin hits the nail on the head:

“Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”

What strikes me about this quote is how someone in a position of power could cultivate an environment that supports healthy disagreement. That last bit about “without fear of retaliation” speaks of a person who assumes good intentions even if the words are oppositional, who takes time to consider options, and who values critical thinking over a “yes-man”.

Additionally, there is power in WHO is delivering the message. If we receive a critical message, if we know it’s coming from a place of wanting us to do better, it’s easier to hear.

If you want to read more about the power of perspectives in effective, collaborative teams, check out my post here.

If you’d like to co-design a process that creates space for different voices and perspectives to think critically, to learn more about how graphic facilitation can support your team.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Cortez Colorado  for Southwest Rural Philanthropy Days where over 300 nonprofit and funding participants brainstormed how to build a stronger community of giving in rural southwest Colorado.

Cortez Colorado for Southwest Rural Philanthropy Days where over 300 nonprofit and funding participants brainstormed how to build a stronger community of giving in rural southwest Colorado.



  New York City  for the second of three workshops focused on modeling storm water and sea level rise in the City. Teams from five academic institutions are creating models of different storm scenarios so the City can develop informed emergency response strategies and priorities based on data.

New York City for the second of three workshops focused on modeling storm water and sea level rise in the City. Teams from five academic institutions are creating models of different storm scenarios so the City can develop informed emergency response strategies and priorities based on data.



  Las Vegas  for a showcase and brainstorm session on innovation in the field of optometry exploring ideas like how to better leverage technology to serve a broader population of people who need eye doctors.

Las Vegas for a showcase and brainstorm session on innovation in the field of optometry exploring ideas like how to better leverage technology to serve a broader population of people who need eye doctors.



Ohio State University to capture the latest thoughts and innovations in cyber security.

Here's What I've Noticed About Great Leaders Across Sectors

One thing I love about my job is getting a unique slice of trends and conversations across sectors. In the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of graphic recording and facilitating with a county government, a national foundation, a private tech giant, and a non-profit conservation organization (yes, I slept for the entire long weekend afterwards).

Some of the conversations these groups had were difficult – that’s often the case when groups have the courage to move beyond the same old ideas they’ve always had. These conversations have potential to be transformative…or not.

What can make the difference?

I’ve noticed that when leaders approach the conversation in a defensive way, that shuts folks down. But if they come in with two ears wide open and a humble mind, the results can be remarkable!

Often people are frustrated or critical because they don’t feel heard, so when leaders and decision-makers put themselves in a space of listening, then thinking about solutions, tension and hostility shift to tenacity to find a path forward together.

If you want to read more about listening...I've written about how to improve here, storylistening here, and different levels of listening here.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

From Adams County Children and Family Services in Denver, to the Buffet Early Childhood Foundation in Omaha, to Adobe in San Jose, to the Environmental Defense Fund in Fort Collins, August was buzzing! Here are a few highlights:

And speaking of buzzing…we also harvested honey from our beehive this weekend. Labor Day, indeed, but the rewards are sweet!

What Every Event Organizer Wants to Hear & How to Make it Happen

No matter what your job is, there’s a good chance you’ve had to organize some sort of meeting. And if you haven’t, you probably will. Whether it’s a regular small-team meeting or a massive annual conference, there’s often a lot more work put into organizing a well-run event.

So, first of all, for all you event organizers out there, I raise a glass to you and all the work behind-the-scenes or otherwise un-thanked you do!

Next, if you’re organizing a meeting/gathering/convening/conference/event/show, I want to give you something. Have you ever heard someone at an event you organized say something like…

“This was unforgettable!”

“This was the BEST conference I’ve ever attended!”

“I got SO MUCH out of that meeting!”

“I can’t WAIT to use what I learned with the rest of my team!”

...or even a simple “THANK YOU!”

These are just a few things you, as an organizer may be yearning to hear or overhear. Why? Those things mean your participants felt valued, saw something from a new perspective, that they were present and engaged, and that you’ve helped them do their jobs or live their lives better. And while there are heaps of ways you can create an event that is meaningful and participants love, I’ve got one sure-fire way to get people fired up (in a good way).

Bring in a graphic recorder.

Having someone visually scribing the content, listening for connections, or even for what’s not being said can catapult participants from looking at their phone screens under the table, to wondering how their ideas can be incorporated into the mural being created. Seeing visual summaries of conversations and discussions moves groups from “My idea” to “Our vision” and “Actions I can take”. It can give them tangible stepping stones to take what they learned and move forward, or help unravel a previously complex and mystifying topic.

So, the next time your team is starting to plan an important event, consider a graphic recorder, facilitator or scribe to support your participants, honor their time, and help them do the best thinking they can.

learn-to-draw-a-crowd-conversketch

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Want to hear “You’re the BEST organizer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with!” from your clients? Let’s talk about blowing their minds!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Turning Dull Trainings into Delightful Drawings:  The US Forest Service has to deal with a lot of challenging situations; if you live in the Western US, you probably know about the prolific wildfires this year. But did you also know the USFS is responsible for hazardous waste spills and clean up? I’m working to help explain the complexity of Spill Response Coordinators and how they work with other agencies when things get leaky. Here's a chart from the initial brainstorming session I facilitated.

Turning Dull Trainings into Delightful Drawings: The US Forest Service has to deal with a lot of challenging situations; if you live in the Western US, you probably know about the prolific wildfires this year. But did you also know the USFS is responsible for hazardous waste spills and clean up? I’m working to help explain the complexity of Spill Response Coordinators and how they work with other agencies when things get leaky. Here's a chart from the initial brainstorming session I facilitated.

  Digital Scribing for ShapingEDU : Last spring I attended the ASU UnConference for on the future of higher education, technology, and meaningful learning for students. I'm in awe of how the organizers have carried the incredible energy of the 100+ participants forward into monthly video calls with participants from around the world on topics from the in-person event. The engagement was astounding, and I got to do live digital scribing while screen-sharing!

Digital Scribing for ShapingEDU: Last spring I attended the ASU UnConference for on the future of higher education, technology, and meaningful learning for students. I'm in awe of how the organizers have carried the incredible energy of the 100+ participants forward into monthly video calls with participants from around the world on topics from the in-person event. The engagement was astounding, and I got to do live digital scribing while screen-sharing!

  Editing Cave:  Working on the final video for the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, who use advanced mapping tools to help managers and responders make safer and more effective decisions about when and where to mitigate a wildfire.

Editing Cave: Working on the final video for the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, who use advanced mapping tools to help managers and responders make safer and more effective decisions about when and where to mitigate a wildfire.

How do You Paint what Makes A Community Unique?

You’ve probably seen some cryptic emails from me over the past few weeks about a surprise project I was working on. I’m delighted now to share it with you all, along with a special behind-the-scenes look at what went into the design.

On August 2nd, to the sweet sounds of the Hazel Miller Band, the 100th Piano About Town was officially unveiled as a part of our community! And yep, you guessed it, I was the lucky artist to get to paint it!

100th-piano-fort-collins

The typical piano process includes a request for proposals from artists sketched out, which are then reviewed and selected for painting outside where passers by can watch the piano unfolding and sometimes even play while it’s being painted.

For the 100th Piano, the Bohemian Foundation wanted to do something a little different and include voices across the community. Enter: a graphic facilitator to conduct and capture focus groups to gather ideas for the piano content.

I listened to people answering the question “What makes Fort Collins unique?”: from seniors to second graders at summer camp to young professionals to those who represent diverse groups at university to musicians. I listened, captured, asked questions, and scribed each group’s conversations.

100th Piano Fort Collins BaseCamp Kids Graphic Facilitation Chart

Then, I took all the charts and began looking for themes. What places did each group bring up? What characteristics make our community special? Then, I sketched out a concept design to gather feedback and refine before painting the piano itself.

This was, to me, the most challenging part of the whole process. How do you distill over five hours of stories, memories, and connections into a single illustration? That’s where the scribe training of listening for themes, distillation and synthesis really shone in this process. It was important to me to make sure all the ideas were included, that key words emerged throughout the imagery, and most of all, that when anyone from the community looks at the piano, they see themselves somewhere in it.

100th piano draft sketch_conversketch

The painting took place inside so it would be a fun, beautiful surprise when it was unveiled at a free concert series last week. Over 12 days, the landscape, people, and stories emerged!

day-1-piano-ready-karina
karina-branson-100th-piano-fort-collins-painting-artist

Want to tickle the ivories and see it for yourself? The 100th Piano will be in Old Town Square for a couple more weeks, then will live in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery for the winter.

100th-piano-old-town-square-fort-collins-colorado

For more musings on pianos and creativity, check out this post.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 

  On My Way to New York, New York!  This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my  Instagram  profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

On My Way to New York, New York! This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my Instagram profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

  In the Studio:   Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

In the Studio: Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

Happy Summer from ConverSketch

While I’ve touted the power of consistency in previous posts, the fact of the matter is…it’s summer. Between graphic recording jobs, we took a week and explored San Francisco and the Northern California coast on the way to a stunning wedding of dear friends on the Smith River.

Directors Retreat_Impact the Field.jpg

And, as I mentioned in my last dispatch, this summer I've had the honor of working on a surprise project which will be unveiled on Thursday, August 2nd in Old Town Square, Fort Collins at 7 pm. The Hazel Miller Band will be playing a Thursday Night Live concert in the Square, so if you're in NoCo, come on down, listen to some great music, and check out what I've been up to!

conversketch-palette

That big ol’ surprise project isn’t quite done, so…that’s my cue to leave you with this short, sweet update email. Now go enjoy some summer time!

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

redwoods