Better Teams

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!

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.

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.

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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

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.

Which of These 5 Common Meeting Problems Would You Like to End?

Think to the last meeting you had. How did you feel when you left? Was it everything you imagined (and more)…or not so much? Today I’ve pulled together some of my least favorite meeting situations, AND, because I’m a big fan of being proactive, there are a few ideas to help address these issues.

Someone keeps bringing up the same point over and over again.

This tends to be one symptom when someone doesn’t feel heard, so making sure everyone can see how their ideas fit into the bigger picture of the conversation often nips this behavior quickly and easily.

You leave with your head spinning and you have no idea what you just did for the past 55 minutes.

When content is complex or there’s uncertainty about moving forward, conversations can quickly get convoluted. Partnering with a graphic recorder who visually maps the conversation in real time illuminates connections, questions, and momentum. The map also shows the group exactly how much they DID accomplish over the course of the meeting, and where more work is needed to move forward.

You can’t get a word in edgewise because someone dominates the conversation.

Graphic facilitators can help you design creative and engaging meeting agendas to include different ways of communicating. They also have smooth strategies for making space for all voices to be heard and valued (see also: first bullet).

You had a ridiculously collaborative, creative, breakthrough meeting…Then everyone scatters and nothing happens.

This one is tricky and deceptive, because it’s difficult to track and recognize. Ask your visual partner to work with you to create ways to continue leveraging the charts after the meeting. One way to clarify next steps and expectations is to include time to map out who’s doing what by when.

You don’t know why this meeting is necessary.

Help you team be clear on exactly what you plan to accomplish by creating a visual agenda that you can send out ahead of time and/or hang up during the meeting; Having clear goals and expectations will set you and your meeting up for success. For example, if someone thinks the goal is brainstorming but their ideas keep getting shut down, they’ll probably shut down too. Or, if your team needs to prioritize and make decisions, but new ideas keep getting thrown in the mix, people will often get jaded or confused about what you’re doing and, you guessed it, shut down.

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

What are your meeting pet peeves? Let’s hear ‘em, then craft some solutions to get your Meeting A Game back!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Lamar, Colorado:  Rural Philanthropy Days was all about connecting organizations and rural communities with resources and support. We launched the event with a World Café to hear what matters most to participants.

Lamar, Colorado: Rural Philanthropy Days was all about connecting organizations and rural communities with resources and support. We launched the event with a World Café to hear what matters most to participants.

  Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming:  Working on visioning with a multi-generational family of wealth with a 100+ year family business and history of philanthropy.

Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming: Working on visioning with a multi-generational family of wealth with a 100+ year family business and history of philanthropy.

How to Explain the Value of the Graphic Recorder to the Folks Making the $$$ Decisions

Are you planning an event that you think could use some graphic recording, but the decision isn’t up to just you? Here’s a few ways you can help your team or leadership understand why it’s a great idea to get visual.

Start Planning Early: We all know there’s a million ways to spend an event budget. Make sure to reach out to your visual partner early on so you can be sure to have engaging, thought-provoking visuals to support your group!

Thought Partner: Find a visual practitioner who can help you understand your options about what’s possible and will help you craft custom elements and even processes that will make the most of your time together.

Science Rules: Graphic recording and facilitation isn’t just mesmerizing and fun, there’s a heap of science behind why it works! For example, did you know that the brain processes a visual 60,000 times faster than text (Semetko & Scammell, 2012)? Here’s a blog I wrote about the science behind graphic recording. And here’s a list of my favorite resources online and published, and if you want to geek out even more, ask me about my master’s thesis work around using graphic recording to help communicate complex science.

Money Matters: …and not just the operating budget for the event. Think of the value of the time (and salary!) of each person in the room. Why WOULDN’T you pull in someone who can help you make the most of your participants’ time? Bringing in a graphic facilitator to design a custom-tailored process or capture content visually can support your people as they make connections more quickly, think big, and collaboratively!

learn-to-draw-cash-money-graphic-recording-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

Now you’ve got ‘em all convinced, let’s talk about your event!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

  Boulder:  Working with startups and seasoned executives in the optics business to co-create and brainstorm ways to foster success on the leading edge of the industry. Thanks to  Sanitas Advisors  for the photo!

Boulder: Working with startups and seasoned executives in the optics business to co-create and brainstorm ways to foster success on the leading edge of the industry. Thanks to Sanitas Advisors for the photo!

  Windsor:  Supporting the Town Board and municipal leadership as they envision and plan for their future!

Windsor: Supporting the Town Board and municipal leadership as they envision and plan for their future!

How to Move Beyond Old Patterns in Conversation

Have you ever noticed patterns of communication in groups you spend time with?

Are there certain people you feel like you have really productive and enjoyable conversations with? How about the other end of the spectrum; you know when you get into a discussion with a particular group of people that it will inevitably be frustrating or murky?

During Kelvy Bird’s Visual Practice Workshop earlier this year, she shared a model called the Four Players in Conversation, developed by David Kantor. The premise is that in every conversation, people play one of four roles:

Move: to initiate, set direction

Follow: to support and complete an initiative

Oppose: to challenge and correct

Bystand: to witness and offer perspective

Which Player do you tend to embody? What kinds of questions or statements are you making? How is that affecting the group and conversation?

Personally, I tend to gravitate away from the role of the Opposer, but during the workshop someone offered a perspective that fundamentally shifted my negative association with it. They clarified that to Oppose does not necessarily mean to be aggressive or contrary, rather it creates a space for questions and critical thinking if approached in a compassionate way.

As a graphic recorder, this lens is an area I’m stretching myself to leverage more to better support the groups I’m working with. How can what I capture solidify or open the conversation to serve the group and their goals? Which Players are being heard, and which are absent? What does this mean for the group? For the graphic?

conversketch-four-players-in-conversation-graphic-facilitation

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 your group's patterns? Let’s put the science of conversation into action for your organization.

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 

  In the Studio:  Last week I wrapped up the third Drawing Connections video for the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program. This video will take you through the seasons at Yosemite National Park! Click here to see the  Fort Laramie  video, and here for  Cabrillo .

In the Studio: Last week I wrapped up the third Drawing Connections video for the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program. This video will take you through the seasons at Yosemite National Park! Click here to see the Fort Laramie video, and here for Cabrillo.

  Colorado State University:  Helping researchers working with gene editing think strategically about research priorities and partnerships.  

Colorado State University: Helping researchers working with gene editing think strategically about research priorities and partnerships.  

Who Can Help Your Team Surface Shared Values?

I love getting to collaborate with a lot of different groups of people working toward many different goals. Most of these groups contain people who have different worldviews, perspectives, ways of thinking.

Sometimes it's challenging to do meaningful work together if you think differently. That’s what leads to the most powerful teams and solutions.

But it can also be beyond frustrating. What if you can’t come to consensus? What if consensus isn’t actually a tool that will serve this group and their goals? What if your team stays surface-level because they don’t feel comfortable disagreeing? (Hint: I wrote a post about the benefits of disagreement here).

This is why groups choose to work with a graphic facilitator.

I can help you design processes to build on your team’s differences to use them as a strength, then draw out the conversation to surface shared ideas or values, then co-create and illustrate a plan that everyone can see themselves in. Get ready for action and riding the wave of momentum!

conversketch-surfacing-ideas-and-flowers-graphic-facilitator

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

Have the seed of an idea? Let’s design something to help your team surface shared values.

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 Vail: At the annual DigiDay Publishing Summit where I captured trends and solutions for the ever-changing world of publishers like the Daily Beast, HuffPost and Gizmodo.

Vail: At the annual DigiDay Publishing Summit where I captured trends and solutions for the ever-changing world of publishers like the Daily Beast, HuffPost and Gizmodo.

 Fort Collins: Working with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as they create a Research Strategy for the next five years.

Fort Collins: Working with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as they create a Research Strategy for the next five years.

 Rafting: As those of you who have subscribed for a while know, I enjoy playing outside and floating on rivers. This week I’m out of the office on a spring float down the Ruby/Horsethief/Westwater stretch of the Colorado River. This photo was taken by the incredibly talented  Spencer Branson .

Rafting: As those of you who have subscribed for a while know, I enjoy playing outside and floating on rivers. This week I’m out of the office on a spring float down the Ruby/Horsethief/Westwater stretch of the Colorado River. This photo was taken by the incredibly talented Spencer Branson.

These Global Fellows Use their Differences to Protect Biodiversity Around the World

There are a lot of groups out there that are full of diverse people working toward the same goal. This diversity and breadth of perspective is sought-after, however in practice can make for difficulty when collaborating. After all, different perspectives mean different approaches, priorities, communication styles, and potentially values.

Last week I was in Medellín, Colombia for the United Nations IPBES conference on science and policy on biodiversity and ecosystem services. I had the pleasure to graphic facilitate visioning sessions with the IPBES Fellows, a group of 49 next generation researchers from 37 countries seeking to use their scientific training to influence policy to protect biodiversity.

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What blew me away the most was how well this group functioned as a team while working together. Here’s what I noticed them doing during the sessions that contributed to a successful global team that was able to go above and beyond with the impact they are making because of their strength in differences.

  • It was clear they had been cultivating an environment where it was okay to disagree, change your mind, or question an idea.
  • They listened to each other seeking to understand.
  • They valued each other’s rich and diverse background informed by culture and field of study.
conversketch-learn-to-draw-perspectives

Next time you’re working with a group of people with different perspectives, think about how you could support and benefit from these differences to make your strategy, product, or paper that much stronger.

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

Ready to build a collaborative strategy? Let’s make it the best it can be with all the perspectives on your team.

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Medellín: While it’s history has been fraught with violence, today Medellín is a vibrant city full of the most welcoming and generous people, known as Paisas. While riding a cable car to an eco-park just outside the city, I met Marleni and her family, who were born and raised on small farms inside the park. They invited me to come see their home and treated me to some farm-fresh meals! I made a small painting of their farmhouse, Finca Juliana as a thank you. It never ceases to amaze me how good people are, and what can happen when you say “yes”!

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watercolor-finca-parque-arvi-medellin-colombia