graphic recorder usa

Tales from New Jersey: Where the Field of Graphic Recording is Headed and How I’m Showing Up PART 1

Where do you find yourself thinking “I’m so at home right now, I feel surrounded by my people!”?

Last week I had the pleasure of getting to connect with MY people at the International Forum of Visual Practitioners (IFVP) conference. This year was special for me because I was selected to present a workshop session (more on that later) and got to shake up a few mental models about myself and the field.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share some key takeaways of where I see the field of visual practitioners going and how that is shaping my practice!

So this week, the first thought to actions shift I want to share is…

We are MORE than fun artists to liven up an event (although that’s part of what we do)!

As graphic recorders, we can provide value from the very first conversation by offering digital visual notes of a scoping or planning call to help our clients see their thoughts more clearly. This simultaneously shows how visual capture provides value in a tangible and relevant sample.

Better yet, attending a pitch or scoping meeting and providing live graphic recording to show even the most skeptical and budget-conscious decision-makers how powerful visualizing the conversation can be! This also serves to show how the facilitator you’re partnering with is different and more effective than the average bear.

The deeper mental model shift here for me is that as a graphic recorder, I have VALUABLE EXPERTISE and a UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE that can help my clients, and it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY to step up and share what’s possible when working together.

If this is a client’s first time working with a graphic recorder, they may not know all the dimensions and ways we can tailor our work to best support their group…unless we help them see what’s possible!

I also choose to show up as a Thought Partner for the facilitators and clients I work with by asking key questions like “What does success look like?” and “Why are you interested in having a graphic recorder at your event?” so I can listen and capture content that will best serve the needs of the group. And I provide a custom list of suggestions tailored to each client to help them continue to leverage the charts after the meeting to provide longer-term value beyond the event itself.

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Looking for a visual thought partner for your next event? Let’s connect.

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?

Montclair State University: Attending this year’s International Forum of Visual Practitioners conference!

Here’s a shot of me capturing a session for the inspiring change-maker  Sita Magnuson  (photo courtesy of the one and only  Emily Jane Steinberg ).

Here’s a shot of me capturing a session for the inspiring change-maker Sita Magnuson (photo courtesy of the one and only Emily Jane Steinberg).

A stunning digital capture by  Raquel Benmergui  done during the session I gave on email marketing for our industry, where explaining what we do and why it’s valuable can be a challenge!

A stunning digital capture by Raquel Benmergui done during the session I gave on email marketing for our industry, where explaining what we do and why it’s valuable can be a challenge!

Crossing the Divide – How to Find Common Ground Among Diverse Perspectives

Whether it’s national politics or internal to your organization, we all hear stories about polarized viewpoints, and the challenge of working across silos.

At the same time, we know that diversity is not only healthy, but also builds resilience when things don’t go as planned.

So how do you harness the inherent tension that bringing diverse perspectives, and potentially combative ones, together to build a strong, shared path forward?

Here are four suggestions for finding common ground from my experience as a graphic facilitator:

-          Create space for context setting and relationship building. Often overlooked or dismissed as “wasting time”, building in time at the beginning of the event, as well as throughout, to clearly outline the “why” of the meeting and for participants to get to know one another allows for more ease when conversations get difficult.

-          Put more time than you think into developing questions to surface shared values, such as “What is important about the work we do?” can provide a window into the group. Having a few open-ended questions like “What should we do about __________?” provide space for participants to surface concerns or solutions the planning team might have missed, but are integral to moving forward successfully.

-          Build in less structured time. This is another piece that often feels like a “waste” of time, but is vitally important to cultivating trust and creativity. This is especially true if much of the agenda will be presentations or panels – you’ve invested in bringing all these important people together to work toward a goal, now give them the freedom to use those brains and hearts to do the work!

-          Draw it out with the intent of surfacing shared ground. Graphic facilitation or recording is a tool to leverage to literally show the group where they’re in agreement. Partnering with a graphic facilitator who can work with you to listen and capture through a particular “lens” to help surface shared values or tensions helps the group keep track of complex, moving parts to build a shared picture of what’s important.

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Have you been looking for common ground on an issue? Click that button to explore how we can leverage visual tools for lasting success.

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?

The Colorado Front Range:  Working with a public health team and their partners as they evaluate an assessment to use the data to support the community, and hospital managers to think more deeply about building trust in their teams.

The Colorado Front Range: Working with a public health team and their partners as they evaluate an assessment to use the data to support the community, and hospital managers to think more deeply about building trust in their teams.

In the Studio: Painting up another explainer video for the US Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS). This video will be available in October, but for now, here’s another look at a video created for the RMRS last year.

Want Everyone in Your Org to Understand Your Strategic Plan? Try This!

Your Strategic Plan. Can you remember it off the top of your head? What is your vision, and what are the goals that will get you there? What makes up your organizational culture? When was the last time you read your strategic plan?

Helping groups navigate strategic planning makes up a big chunk of the work I do as a graphic facilitator, and I want to help you avoid one of the most common mistakes I see: putting heaps of money, time, and effort into bringing your best minds together to come up with a strategy which gets written up and then sits on a shelf because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

Which results in:

  • Confusion around priorities (which priority is the real priority?)

  • Lackluster engagement because people don’t see how they fit into the bigger picture

  • Reinforcement of silos because of the temptation to focus on what’s right in front of us, rather than the high-level strategic goals

It doesn’t have to be this way!

And it doesn’t need to be a huge deal to shift from status quo to status: whoa!

Whether you’re working on a new strategic plan or you already have one, engaging a graphic facilitator to support process design or synthesizing your current plan into a strategic illustration can help alleviate frustrating patterns and support a healthy organization.

Here’s what making it visual can do for you:

  • Clearly shows vision, mission, values, and priorities in one page

  • Imagery can be used that employees see themselves in, which build buy-in

  • It can easily be referenced to make sure day-to-day activities are in support of the larger strategic direction

  • Create interest and something people will want to take time to look at, often, and remember

  • Nuance can be shown in visuals you can’t easily communicate with words

  • Provide a shared story outline leadership can easily share with their teams so the message is clear across the organization

If you have a plan you’d like brought to life or are in the midst of a strategic planning process, let’s talk about how visuals can add long-term value with a ripple effect!

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?

Washington, DC: I just got back from the Funding Science for Sustainability forum, a gathering of entities that fund sustainability research around the world. Participants discussed the potential for strategic partnerships to better address gaps and challenges of supporting research around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Video Release! I often share that I’m in the studio working on videos and other projects. This week, I’m delighted to share a video for the Drawing Connections series for the National Park Service. Check out Yosemite National Park:

Crush Your Next Big Project…It Will Only Take 15 Minutes

Sometimes a project feels so big you don’t know where to begin. Or maybe it’s not so huge, but it feels easier to check your phone than starting what needs to get done.

Here’s a trick to shake off that paralysis of getting started:

Set yourself a timer for 15 minutes.

Really? 15 minutes? Yes, really.

I’m doing it right now – I’m using my own advice to get this newsletter out to you fantastic people!

I’ve found that 15 minutes is just a small enough chunk of time I can convince myself to just say no to one more cute cat video, put my head down, and start chipping away at what I need to do.

And, 15 minutes is just long enough to get into the groove and want to keep jamming out on what I’m working on. Maybe set that timer for another round and see if I can finish something faster than I expected!

Bonus tip: Set the timer, then hide your phone. Temptation? What temptation?

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What takes less than 15 minutes? Getting in touch to bring your upcoming event to the next level with visuals and creative process design to facilitate lasting action.

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?

Dallas:  Supporting a C-Level leadership retreat through reflective and challenging conversations around how to work together to be a better team.

Dallas: Supporting a C-Level leadership retreat through reflective and challenging conversations around how to work together to be a better team.

Washington, DC:  For Part 2 of the Future Earth Sustainability 2.0 workshops mapping the future of sustainability research.

Washington, DC: For Part 2 of the Future Earth Sustainability 2.0 workshops mapping the future of sustainability research.

Denver:  Supporting a collaborative of emergency management partners as they tackled design thinking, priorities, and mapping their time line moving forward.

Denver: Supporting a collaborative of emergency management partners as they tackled design thinking, priorities, and mapping their time line moving forward.

Northern Colorado:  Capturing a leadership training on how to walk the talk to build and instill trust in teams at hospitals.

Northern Colorado: Capturing a leadership training on how to walk the talk to build and instill trust in teams at hospitals.

In the Studio:  Working digitally and remotely for  Visuality  as their European-based team captured the Global Water Partnership Annual Meeting which “followed the sun” around the globe! Here’s a snipped from the discussion in China about the importance of working collectively.

In the Studio: Working digitally and remotely for Visuality as their European-based team captured the Global Water Partnership Annual Meeting which “followed the sun” around the globe! Here’s a snipped from the discussion in China about the importance of working collectively.

One Easy Strategy to Increase Authentic Inclusion at Your Next Conference

The past few weeks, a few conversations have had me taking a step back and seriously consider and appreciate a lot of things I take for granted. As you can imagine, that list is long, but the one thing I want to write about today is inclusion and accessibility – particularly for people with differing abilities (thanks Melwood for the lingo!).

A few weeks ago when I was at ASU, I met someone who has been part of the ShapingEDU community, and they told me something that stunned me. We’ve been doing webinars on the various ShapingEDU themes, aka neighborhoods, which I’ve been digitally graphic recording and screensharing during the conversations.

As we chatted, he explained he used hearing aids, and the webinars were sometimes difficult to hear or follow. He then told me this:

Karina’s graphic facilitation of meeting notes, a-has, and conversation during our ShapingEDU webinars, and our in-person Empower IT conference helps me to not only follow these lively and important discussions occurring, but also in processing the information which flows rapidly.  As a hearing impaired individual, these pieces of art...yes, they are art...continue to be instrumental in assisting me in processing the information.  These pieces are more engaging, more accurate, and more impactful that closed captioning could ever imagine, or hope to be.  Karina is a consummate communicator.  She has identified the universal language to us all, pictures.  I look forward now to any meeting which Karina will be communicating visually with the participants.  Simply put, she does amazing work!
— Casey Davis, Arizona State University

(I asked him to kindly write it down so I’d capture his eloquence, thus the shift from first to third person.)

This totally shook up my frame of reference and made me reconsider what and how I capture and being sure the context is clear for those who may not be able to hear everything that’s being said. And was a great excuse to take a step back and consider what I take for granted.

Are you considering the abilities of all your participants when designing an event or webinar? Let’s talk about creating a more inclusive environment with some visuals.

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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?

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Boulder Colorado: At the second annual Optical Innovation Summit with leaders in the vision and eye care industry discussing innovation and offering advice for startups in the room.

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Colorado Springs, Colorado: At the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Symposium (awwwww yeah!) learning tons about women’s reproductive health, thinking about how we talk about periods, and learning that pads and tampons are taxed as luxury items (seriously, things half the global population needs every month).

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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