karina mullen branson

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

Hey folks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

conversketch-digital-paper-foamboard-comparison-for-graphic-recording

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers,

Karina Signature_100.png





Where in the World is ConverSketch?

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers,

Karina Signature_100.png

Psst….Have a video call in the calendar?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky Number 7 – Happy Birthday ConverSketch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

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

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

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

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

Mwaka Mpya - Happy New Year in Swahili!

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

 

Let's Start 2019 Off Right

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

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

Why is this important to me?

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

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

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

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

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

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Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

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

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

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

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

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.

Secrets Revealed: Tools of the Trade

Have you ever seen a graphic recorder holding approximately 15 markers at once while capturing content at an event?  Where did they even GET markers that big? And what are they doing with that crazy squeeze bottle thing?

Today I’d like to share some of my favorite tools of the trade for working on paper, whiteboards, or digital scribing. Curious about when and why to draw on paper vs. using a computer for creative work? Here’s a post with my thoughts for you!

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Paper or foam board: The surface I work on most is paper, and my go-to markers are the remarkable, re-fillable Neulands. They have wonderful chisel, brush, and round tips (which can be replaced when they get too soft), and come in regular and extra large sizes. They are water based and don’t smell, and even offer a black Outliner which won’t smear or blend with other colors. Very much my favorite markers!

When working on paper, I also really enjoy using chalk pastels to blend and add a soft, artistic swath of color.

When sketchnoting or working in a notebook, I love Micron pens in different sizes, which dry waterproof and are pleasing to write or draw with. While not refillable, they last a long time and are quality ink.

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Whiteboards: A new find for me has been Pilot whiteboard markers. Also refillable, the colors are decent and the chisel tips are solid.

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Digital: Most of the graphic recorders I know use an iPad Pro and the Procreate app to do quality digital work, but for now I’m enjoying using my Surface Pro 4 and the pen that comes with it using Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro. The customizable brushes and colors are top-notch, and the tool isn’t as complicated as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, although the Surface has the edge over the iPad as it can run full Adobe programs smoothly. Using a tablet to scribe can be useful for studio jobs which end up with lots of changes, or for projecting large-scale on a screen for large groups at events.

What are your favorite tools to draw or create art? Let me know in the comments below!

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 those tools in action for your project?

 

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Salt Lake City: Graphic facilitating a retreat for a team of researchers for a new series of illustrated videos. We did a scoping retreat to brainstorm and refine ideas for the stories we’ll translate into their videos in the coming months.

Salt Lake City: Graphic facilitating a retreat for a team of researchers for a new series of illustrated videos. We did a scoping retreat to brainstorm and refine ideas for the stories we’ll translate into their videos in the coming months.

Fort Collins: With the Environmental Defense Fund, graphic recording a systems thinking retreat focused on habitat for Monarch Butterflies in the mid-west US.

Fort Collins: With the Environmental Defense Fund, graphic recording a systems thinking retreat focused on habitat for Monarch Butterflies in the mid-west US.

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!