Storytelling

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!

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.

I'm Up to Something.

I’m up to something. And I really can’t tell you about it yet, because it’s top secret. But I CAN tell you about it in August, and if you’re in Northern Colorado, I’ll be sharing some details later this summer.

And although I can’t say much this week, here are a few things my graphic recording clients are saying:

Your work brought an element of clarity and action that I haven’t seen with this group in 10 years.
— Michael Wade Smith, University of Kansas
We have the chart you made two years ago and we hang it up at every quarterly meeting to remind us of our goals and where we want to go!
— CSU College of Liberal Arts
Your work helped transform a group of people who did not know how to talk to each other, or even really hear each other, into a plan for collaborative action. Thank you so much!
— Kate Brown, Ph.D.
The day was a success and we have you to thank! Your work was all anybody talked about the entire 30-minute bus ride.
— JBA Communications
You aren’t just an artist, you are a designer of stories.
— Tonya Malik-Carson, Colorado State University
conversketch-learn-to-draw-secrets-graphic-recording-scribe

Want more secrets? Try this on business from the desert, these from visual thought leaders, and this one for creativity.

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 people to be saying these kinds of things at your next event or meeting?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Detroit: Last week I headed up north and was pleasantly surprised by my first trip to Detroit. Working with Together for Safer Roads for their annual meeting, I learned about the science and partnerships that save lives on the road.

Fort Collins: Celebrating achievements and looking to the future of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University.

How to Get People So Excited to Participate in Your Event They’ll Be Talking About It for Weeks

There’s this thing I’ve noticed about people: we love ourselves. Now, wait a minute, just hear me out on this one, okay?

Even if you’re the most generous, self-aware, kind and thoughtful person, you will almost certainly get a kick out of seeing yourself as a little roughly drawn character, especially if you get to watch while it’s drawn. And if we get to see how our experiences and stories compare to those around us, we get even more interested.

Last week I created a Story Wall for the Arizona State University Unconference on the future of learning in a digital age. During happy hour, I talked with about 100 people about when they first became involved with digital learning and drew their stories for them while they watched. It was rapid-fire with people clustered around, waiting to have their story captured and perhaps a picture drawn. It was messy and unfiltered.

Everybody loved it.

I heard things like “You learned that software program too?! Do you remember…” Old friends and new friends were standing shoulder to shoulder, watching and chatting.  And it wasn’t just during that first happy hour – for the rest of the two day Unconference, people were continuously gathering around the Story Wall and talking with each other.

These Walls lead to direct opportunities to connect face-to-face in an authentic way, something we seem to be craving more and more in this increasingly technological world.

As a graphic recorder, I am always trying to improve how I listen, how I draw, how I make marks to capture not only content, but the energy of the room. Which sometimes leads me into the Art/Design Rabbit Hole of Continuous Creative Improvement, and I forget the most important thing about what I do: It’s not about me or how “pretty” the drawing is. It’s about helping my clients see and understand their stories.

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 boost engagement and creativity at your next event?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 Arizona State University: Unconference for Dreamers, Doers and Drivers around the future of digital learning in higher education.

Arizona State University: Unconference for Dreamers, Doers and Drivers around the future of digital learning in higher education.

 Colorado State University: Last week CSU hosted a University-wide, then community-wide event around how to cultivate compassion in the workplace. After a presentation from researcher and thought leader Leah Weiss on the power of purpose and compassion in the workplace, the participants discussed what they wanted to see and what they can do where they work.

Colorado State University: Last week CSU hosted a University-wide, then community-wide event around how to cultivate compassion in the workplace. After a presentation from researcher and thought leader Leah Weiss on the power of purpose and compassion in the workplace, the participants discussed what they wanted to see and what they can do where they work.

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.