What Whitewater Rafting Has Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

A big hello!

If you missed it, the past three weeks I’ve been rafting and camping in the Grand Canyon, which has meant a total disconnect from technology and dropping into River Life (read: plenty of good company, good food, good beer, good scenery, and great rapids!). If you emailed or called while I was gone, thanks for your patience!

Reflecting on some of the biggest lessons I learned in the Canyon, there are a surprising number of similarities to being an entrepreneur. Here are a few of the reminders I’m taking with me as I jump back into life off the river:

Little side hikes can be the most unforgettable. Some of the most special places in the Grand Canyon are hikes up side canyons which are always full of delightful surprises. Will you find yourself in a slot canyon? Or surrounded by spring frog singing? Or stopped in your tracks by an unexpected waterfall around the next bend? Going the extra mile and wandering off the main river corridor can mean a new discovery you won’t forget!

Approaching each day with expedition mentality/generosity. This is huge. Often the biggest challenges on the river aren’t the rapids, or pushing through a headwind…but learning to live with 15 other people for three weeks. When everyone does their best to work hard, contribute, and put the group first, success is pretty much guaranteed.

The power of presence. The gift of being completely surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery, the music of the water and birds, and the steady dip of oars in the water allow one’s mind to open and heart to soften. Without the distractions of notifications or, for that matter, calendars, it’s easy to let the conversation drift, get engrossed in a story, or simply sit and be. This is one of my favorite ways to reset, refresh, and honor the people around me.

You can’t fight the might of the river. This was my first Grand trip rowing my own raft down the river, which meant navigating the rapids! When there’s an obstacle in a rapid and the force of the river is pushing toward it, the way to avoid it isn’t by trying to overpower the water, but by reading it and lining up where you want to go.

…And, at the same time, knowing and honoring your own strength. When the going gets tough, tapping into the reserves and pushing on. Sometimes you don’t have a choice, like when you are in charge of a boat and there are 30 mph gusts of wind buffeting you head-on all day. But you know you have it in you whenever you need it most.

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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 Signature_100.png




Where in the World is ConverSketch?

In the Studio: Getting back into the swing of life off the river and catching up with all of you. I’ll be traveling to graphic facilitate and graphic record off-site meetings next week, but if you want to get together for coffee and river stories, let’s get together!

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Hello from a Natural Wonder of the World!

Howdy!

As you may have seen, this month I’m rowing a raft down the Mighty Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with a group of 15 other folks. For 21 days, we’re camping on the river’s edge, exploring side canyons, and completely disconnected from phone or internet service from March 25th through April 15th.

You’ve probably deduced by this point that while I’ll be blissfully unplugged, unfortunately I cannot work with phenomenal clients like you during this time. As an entrepreneur, finding balance between work and spending time in nature is important to me, and I feel ridiculously lucky to be a part of this trip.

Curious to explore the Grand? Google Street View allows you to take a virtual tour of this spectacular wild place, even exploring a few side hikes!

Here’s a link to one of the most iconic views – Nankoweep Overlook. Go ahead, click your way down the trail from the ruins of ancient granaries then downriver (or upriver, you do you) to see what it looks like to run the rapids!

Thanks for tuning in. I’ll look forward to connecting when we’re back in a couple of weeks!

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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-branson-signature

Here’s a couple of photos my partner Spencer took during our last trip in 2014. For more of his astounding photography, check out www.spencerbphotography.com.

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Digital, Paper, or Foam Board, Oh My! How to Decide Which Medium is Right for Your Event

Hey folks!

Have you ever organized an event for your organization? If you have, you know there’s a LOT more that goes into planning and pulling off a successful gathering than meets the eye.

If you’ve put weeks into organizing an event, you want it to go as perfectly as possible. So, naturally, you’ve hired a graphic recorder to visually capture notes in real-time. High five, you have got this on lock. Then, the graphic recorder throws this curveball at you:

“So, would you like me to work on paper or digitally?

As digital scribing has become more reliable and attainable, deciding whether to use paper, foam board, or projecting a tablet screen can feel complicated.

With all the other variables you’re managing, I’m here to help this decision to be an easy and fun one!

I often get the same question from clients: What are the pros and cons of each option? So, I’ve decided to pull inspiration from some other graphic facilitators, and create a tool to help you swiftly make a decision based on your needs.

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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 Signature_100.png





Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Phoenix, Arizona:  Back at Arizona State University for the second ShapingEDU Unconference where Dreamers, Doers and Drivers got together to share ideas and strategies to better leverage technology for learning in higher education.

Phoenix, Arizona: Back at Arizona State University for the second ShapingEDU Unconference where Dreamers, Doers and Drivers got together to share ideas and strategies to better leverage technology for learning in higher education.



Houston, Texas:  With Houston Methodist Center for Neuroregeneration capturing presentations and discussions from a global group of neuroscientists and spinal researchers. We even witnessed  Mutton Bustin’  at the Houston Rodeo! Needless to say, my mind is blown after working with them (heh heh).

Houston, Texas: With Houston Methodist Center for Neuroregeneration capturing presentations and discussions from a global group of neuroscientists and spinal researchers. We even witnessed Mutton Bustin’ at the Houston Rodeo! Needless to say, my mind is blown after working with them (heh heh).

Out of the Studio: This new digitally illustrated video for local Northern Colorado business Streamside Solutions explains how their HVAC system software can save you energy, time and money…fast!

Washington, DC:   This week I’m back in DC working with the Environmental Defense Fund on the last in a series of systems thinking workshops on sustainable agriculture and pollinator habitat.

Washington, DC: This week I’m back in DC working with the Environmental Defense Fund on the last in a series of systems thinking workshops on sustainable agriculture and pollinator habitat.

And Nearly…In the Grand Canyon!  As a reminder, my next big adventure has been in the books for the past year – from  March 24-April 15  I will be rafting the Grand Canyon! Fortunately, I’ll be completely disconnected from phone and email during that time rolling on a river. Unfortunately, I won’t be available to partner with any clients during that time, but will look forward to opportunities to collaborate when I return. If you do have an event during this window, I can connect you with some highly qualified colleagues who can take care of you and your group!

And Nearly…In the Grand Canyon! As a reminder, my next big adventure has been in the books for the past year – from March 24-April 15 I will be rafting the Grand Canyon! Fortunately, I’ll be completely disconnected from phone and email during that time rolling on a river. Unfortunately, I won’t be available to partner with any clients during that time, but will look forward to opportunities to collaborate when I return. If you do have an event during this window, I can connect you with some highly qualified colleagues who can take care of you and your group!

Want to Elevate Engagement in Your Virtual Meetings? Try Adding Graphic Recording!

Hello!

Have you ever been on a video conference call or webinar and noticed people look like they’re doing something else, rather than paying attention to the call? Maybe you’ve been there yourself…there’s an important email you wanted to start drafting…

Whether you’re in a virtual meeting, or one face-to-face, getting distracted by technology can be far too easy.

But what if technology could be leveraged to increase engagement instead?

One of the most powerful benefits of graphic recording is that participants see their ideas unfolding visually as they watch, allowing them to see patterns and systems, and feel like their ideas are being heard by the group.

With video conference platforms that allow screen sharing and a tablet, all of a sudden graphic recording has become more attainable, even if you have people calling in from all over the world!

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of capturing the ongoing series of discussions for ShapingEDU: “A community of dreamers, doers, and drivers shaping the future of learning in the digital age.” The live capture has been used by a global audience as they’re discussing or listening to panelists in an expertly-facilitated discussion and are shared, tweeted, and used to boost engagement around the webinars during and after each one.

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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 Signature_100.png

Psst….Have a video call in the calendar?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

IMPORTANT NOTE:   You all know me by now, and know that I like a good adventure. The next one has been in the books for the past year – please keep in mind that from  March 24-April 15 I will be rafting the Grand Canyon!  Fortunately, I’ll be completely disconnected from phone and email during that time rolling on a river. Unfortunately, I won’t be available to partner with any clients during that time, but will look forward to opportunities to collaborate when I return.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You all know me by now, and know that I like a good adventure. The next one has been in the books for the past year – please keep in mind that from March 24-April 15 I will be rafting the Grand Canyon! Fortunately, I’ll be completely disconnected from phone and email during that time rolling on a river. Unfortunately, I won’t be available to partner with any clients during that time, but will look forward to opportunities to collaborate when I return.

On my way to Houston: I’m headed to a Neuroregeneration Symposium for a few days to capture cutting edge research on spinal repair.

In the Studio:  Wrapping up a digitally illustrated video for a local business, and a strategic illustration on Early Childhood Education career paths for a local non-profit.

In the Studio: Wrapping up a digitally illustrated video for a local business, and a strategic illustration on Early Childhood Education career paths for a local non-profit.

Lucky Number 7 – Happy Birthday ConverSketch!

Holy moly party people, it’s time to celebrate!

That’s right, it’s been seven years since ConverSketch officially launched into this world, and I’m proud and grateful to get to be a visual thought partner for my clients.

In some cultures, seven is considered a lucky number and, while entrepreneurship definitely not completely about luck, it certainly plays a role. Luck, kismet, fate, intuition, divine guidance…call it what you want to call it. There is something beyond pure logic that comes into play as a business founder.

And, you know me, I love to appreciate! So, here are a few of the things I feel lucky about at ConverSketch:

-          I’m lucky to work with the amazing groups and organizations I do. My clients have missions that drive them and always have passionate employees who make the world a better place.

-          I’m lucky to have the privilege to do this work. To have an education and the support to pursue what simply felt like what I should be doing. That I can work hard and that hustle can pay off is a gift that’s easy to forget.

-          I’m lucky to get perspective from the micro to macro scale and to work across sectors allowing observations of larger patterns and trends and that I can learn something new pretty much every day.

-          I’m lucky to share my skills and energy with my clients in an authentic way to support them to do the best possible work they can. I can experiment, infuse goofy humor, make mistakes, and depict my clients as small woodland creatures if I feel like that needs to happen.

-          I’m lucky to have kickass readers like you who doodle along with my emails and write notes of encouragement or questions after reading a newsletter.

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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

Do you have an idea we should chat about? Perhaps how to help your team understand, engage, and remember information and ideas?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Getting digital in the STUDIO. Feeling very modern working on a strategic illustration and an animated video tablet-style.

Getting digital in the STUDIO. Feeling very modern working on a strategic illustration and an animated video tablet-style.

Updates from the Field

The past two weeks have been filled with graphic facilitation, studio work, and graphic recording across Colorado. I wanted to share a few of my favorite parts of this recent work with you all!

Graphic Facilitation for the newly formed Colorado Project Learning Tree Council. Check out that huge garage door window! Too bad it was below freezing over the two day retreat.

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Graphic recording at a public outreach meeting in Custer County, Colorado, to help them capturing the complexity and make tangible their vision of the future!

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Graphic recording for a client working on a collaborative around the Colorado River Basin in the western US.

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Fire It Up

Hey folks!

We’re back from co-leading an absolutely stellar service learning trip in Kenya with a rockstar group of students from Colorado State University.

Between the significant time change, over 30 hours of travel, having been trusted with the safety and wellbeing of 12 college students, and having no internet or phone access for nearly 18 days, last week felt a little slow and fuzzy.

Which, in Karina-Speak, means a little frustrating.

Getting back, I was simultaneously fired up to immediately leap into projects and emails that had been put off during the trip, and at the same time I wanted to maintain the blissful state of disconnection and presence that being in Kenya facilitated.

Coming back to winter in Colorado, near our wood stove has been a favorite spot. So, naturally, I’ve been thinking about fire. For me, this month has been an exercise in understanding that all fires –whether they’re in a stove or the heart behind what you share with the world – need the right tending, fuel, and time to burn bright and clean.

Many of us feel the tension between creating space for ourselves and wanting to exceed our clients’ or teammates’ expectations. How do you keep your fire burning?

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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?

Taking a nap…I mean in the Studio…working on several illustration pieces on paper and digitally.

Taking a nap…I mean in the Studio…working on several illustration pieces on paper and digitally.

Mapping Out Complexity  – with a local business with complexity and a big vision. I guided the founder through a two-hour session mapping out all the moving parts, how they are connected, gaps, next steps, and big picture vision. This can be shared with the whole team for transparent communication on the why, what and how of the business in the next year.

Mapping Out Complexity – with a local business with complexity and a big vision. I guided the founder through a two-hour session mapping out all the moving parts, how they are connected, gaps, next steps, and big picture vision. This can be shared with the whole team for transparent communication on the why, what and how of the business in the next year.

Mwaka Mpya - Happy New Year in Swahili!

Happy New Year!

We’re in Samburu, Kenya co-leading a service learning trip for students at Colorado State University until January 14th with extremely limited internet and no phone access (hallelujah for disconnecting…and scheduled emails!).

This trip is possible because of the phenomenal organizations we partner with, and I am blown away by the tenacity, resourcefulness, and enormous hearts that make them what they are.

Unity Women’s Village – Established in 2011, Unity Village is a collective of women and their families who make and sell traditional beaded jewelry and provide an immersive tourism experience for visitors. Most of these women left abusive or arranged marriages with the goal to create a safe environment and make independent income to send their children to school. Read their stories and find out how you can visit here.

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The Samburu Youth Education Fund (SYEF) – A non-profit organization with a mission to provide equitable opportunities for Samburu youth to enhance their leadership development and problem-solving skills through educational scholarships and civic involvement opportunities. I am proud to be a Board Member of this organization — find out how when you work with ConverSketch you’re supporting women’s rights and education!

Students from Colorado State University and recent high school graduates share advice for success to new scholarship recipients to help them as they begin as freshmen.

Students from Colorado State University and recent high school graduates share advice for success to new scholarship recipients to help them as they begin as freshmen.

And, if you’re curious what our students are doing and thinking about on this service learning trip (or are in need of some fodder for procrastination), here’s the link to the blog they have been posting to somewhat regularly to share our activities and adventures.

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

 

Let's Start 2019 Off Right

I hope this time of year has been filled with warmth, joy and quality time spent with loved ones.

If you’ve been with me for very long on this newsletter journey, you’ve probably picked up that one of my favorite strategic business tools is visualization. This time of year, I find it immensely useful to take time to reflect, and then visualize the year ahead.

Why is this important to me?

So I have a loose plan – Things change but having a strategy that I can adapt helps me work intentionally toward my goals.

To focus my energy – Having a Vision Board near my desk is fun to look at, and by looking often, it reinforces my goals and intentions for the year.

To set goals to grow and stretch – It can be easy to get completely focused on the day-to-day of a job, so taking time to set goals for growth and think strategically about the year’s work is important for me to bring me out of the weeds, and up to the strategic level every so often.

You can create whatever kind of vision board or strategic visualization that feels best for you – I like to paint and draw mine, growing up my family always made collages from magazines.

And as a little thank you gift to you all, I’ve created a template for you to write or draw your own vision for 2019.

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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?

New York, New York:  Supporting the Mayor’s office and a cross-disciplinary team of scientists, modelers, and data visualizers as they wrap up an immense project to help the City make informed decisions and plan for mitigation of future flooding.

New York, New York: Supporting the Mayor’s office and a cross-disciplinary team of scientists, modelers, and data visualizers as they wrap up an immense project to help the City make informed decisions and plan for mitigation of future flooding.

Samburu, Kenya:  Tomorrow we head off with twelve students from Colorado State University on a two-week service learning trip to Samburu, Kenya. This will be my seventh time co-leading the trip which focuses on building relationships, listening to what the community needs, and generally broadening horizons. Here’s a shot from last year of when we helped re-construct a boma, or house, for an older woman in the community.

Samburu, Kenya: Tomorrow we head off with twelve students from Colorado State University on a two-week service learning trip to Samburu, Kenya. This will be my seventh time co-leading the trip which focuses on building relationships, listening to what the community needs, and generally broadening horizons. Here’s a shot from last year of when we helped re-construct a boma, or house, for an older woman in the community.

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!