graphic recorder Denver

The Other AI

You know when you’re having a conversation with someone you admire, and pretty much every other sentence they say blows your mind?

Last fall I had the joy of getting to sit down with one of those people in my life, Heather Martinez, and something she casually dropped has been bouncing around inside me for months as I figure out how to chew on it and what it means for my graphic facilitation practice.

We were talking about process design for facilitating meaningful conversations, and I was gushing about Design Thinking and how complementary visual thinking is to that process.

Then Heather says something to the effect of “Yeah, but you can’t prototype humanity or emotions. That’s why I love Appreciative Inquiry!”

That brought me up short. I’ve dabbled with Appreciative Inquiry (or AI– not artificial intelligence AI), but with that statement, I immediately felt like it was a tool I needed to learn more about.

And this past week, the amazing and talented Christine Whitney-Sanchez facilitated over 700 IT professionals from across Arizona State University using Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space to build community, understand what’s most important to these people, and where to prioritize resources for the next year.

I think Appreciative Inquiry is a rad tool because it focuses on positivity, storytelling, human connection, discovery, and designing a path toward action. Unlike a lot of process design, it doesn’t assume to know the answers.

Here are the 5 D’s of Appreciative Inquiry, and you can learn more at this link.

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Interested in applying Appreciative Inquiry to a question in your organization?

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





Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Provincetown, Massachusetts: Graphic recording for the second annual Broto Conference on Art and Climate Change where artists of all mediums and walks discussed how art could be used to scale climate action globally for good.

Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer

Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer

Las Vegas, Nevada: With a group of engineers discussing the future of tech, trends, and big questions they’re thinking about. I can’t share much, but here’s one small illustration from my digital graphic recordings:

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Tempe, Arizona: Back with the amazing Arizona State University Technology Office (UTO) who convened IT professionals from across the University to have conversations about what matters most to them and how the UTO can support a more cohesive IT network across the entire campus. This image was created from responses from an app in real-time during 21 simultaneous sessions!

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Denver, Colorado: Supporting the work of Future Earth and H3Uni as they guided an esteemed group of individuals discussing the future of sustainability scholarship and how to address systems-level challenges to doing effective transdisciplinary sustainability research.

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Yeah, it was a busy eight days!

 

One Simple Question You Can Use to Train Your Brain to Apply Systems Thinking to Any Challenge

I’m on a learning-about-systems-thinking-kick. Why? Because the challenges and questions I’m seeing across sectors with the clients I partner with are more complex, more dynamic, and require solutions that address root causes.

And I want you to have the skills to recognize systems at play and know how to look for creative solutions that lift your team to the next level.

My last post covered the basics of systems thinking and a few everyday places to observe systems in action.

Okay, so it’s easy to see how stocks and flows apply to a bathtub, or feedback loops are seen in bank account interest.  

But what about starting from scratch? Where to begin?

Here’s a gem from Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows. Ask yourself:

If A causes B, is it also possible that B causes A?

Alright Karina, bring it back down. What does that actually look like?

If perceived lack of control causes low employee engagement, is it also possible that low employee engagement causes perceived lack of control?

Or…If not having a shared vision causes a siloed organization, is it also possible that a siloed organization causes not having a shared vision?

And if you want to get even more cerebral, she also challenges readers to “Try to think of a human decision that occurs without a feedback loop.”

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 Do you have a persistent challenge your organization keeps coming back to? If you think some visual strategizing could illuminate a new solution…

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

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

In the Studio:  Filming a new  illustrated video  for the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program, creating digital illustrations, and prepping for a lot of travel next week.

In the Studio: Filming a new illustrated video for the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program, creating digital illustrations, and prepping for a lot of travel next week.

It's been a month since we've been back from rafting the Grand Canyon and I'm stoked to share this shot taken by my husband - that's me in the light blue rowing through a rapid called Upset! Click on the photo to see a larger version! Photo: Spencer Branson

Three Ways You Already Use Systems Thinking

Hey folks!

Systems thinking is one of my favorite tools to use with clients because it pairs really well with graphic facilitation, and it almost always leads to new insights and solutions.

And, systems thinking can be a complex, nebulous, and overwhelming.

For me, this boils down to two factors:

-          The world isn’t as simple as we’d like, so truly seeking to make change or find the root cause of things takes some digging

-          I was over-complicating the theory in my head

Thinking in systems, while not necessarily simple, is natural for us. We navigate them every day! Here are three ways you’re probably already using systems thinking.

Bathtubs. This everyday example illustrates the concept of stocks (elements of the system) and flows (how stocks change). When you turn on the water, you know the bathtub will take some time to fill up. And, when you pull the drain plug, you know it takes time to completely empty. So, with this simple example, you can see how stocks act as delays or buffers in the system (the tub isn’t instantly full or empty). If the tub is half full and you pull the plug and turn the water on at the same rate it’s leaving, you can see how the stock of water will be maintained at the same level (this is called dynamic equilibrium).

Caffeine. If you drink coffee or caffeinated tea, if you feel your energy level dropping, you might make yourself a cuppa to pick yourself back up to the desired level of energy. Your stock here is energy, and the caffeine is a flow. The energy delivery isn’t instantaneous; there’s a gap. This gap is what drives your decision on when and how much caffeine to drink. This illustrates a balancing feedback loop: energy available leads to a discrepancy (gap), which leads to drinking coffee, which leads back to energy available.

Your Savings Account. This next example shows us about reinforcing feedback loops. When you put money in a savings account (high five!), there is also an interest rate. The more money you put into the account, the more interest is accumulated, which puts more money in your account. You get the idea.

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These are three examples of how systems behave, but of course there’s a whole lot more that goes into applying systems thinking to finding solutions or changing a system. Next time I’ll be sharing two key questions guaranteed to fire up your Systems Thinking Brain!

Intrigued and want to learn more? One of the all-time best books on this subject is Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows.

Intrigued and want to apply some visual systems thinking to a challenge in your organization?

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?

University of Illinois:  Graphically facilitating a strategic planning retreat for Technology Services. Here’s a snapshot of the agenda I designed and facilitated visually for the group. If you’re curious about tech and higher ed, definitely check out the work happening with  ShapingEDU!

University of Illinois: Graphically facilitating a strategic planning retreat for Technology Services. Here’s a snapshot of the agenda I designed and facilitated visually for the group. If you’re curious about tech and higher ed, definitely check out the work happening with ShapingEDU!

Temecula, California:  Capturing the big ideas about the future of the vision industry from today’s emerging leaders, facilitated by Sanitas Advisors. The energy was palpable and the community built in just one day was very cool to witness!

Temecula, California: Capturing the big ideas about the future of the vision industry from today’s emerging leaders, facilitated by Sanitas Advisors. The energy was palpable and the community built in just one day was very cool to witness!

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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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?

conversketch-learn-to-draw-fire

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.

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.

ConverSketch-visualizing-2019-worksheet

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.

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.

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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?

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.