systems

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.”

learn-to-draw-silos-conversketch-graphic-recording

 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!

Authenticity? Let’s be Real.

Buzzwords. They can make us roll our eyes, especially if it feels like the context they’re brought up in isn’t genuine.

Earlier this week I was graphic recording for a company that’s had to do some soul searching this year, and as a result, is focusing on infusing integrity into the day-to-day culture. During a brainstorming session on culture and values, someone said “…unscripted feels more authentic.”  

Although it was made almost in passing in the conversation, it really resonated with the group after the formal conversation ended as they were revisiting the content on my recording.

For leaders or team members who feel stuck when seeking to have authentic conversations with their teams at work, I recommend taking a chance on “going unscripted”.

Now, this may not mean just winging it every time -- there’s certainly wisdom in practicing what you want to say (authentic ≠ excuse to be callous and blunt). Rather, think about how you can use the power of speaking from your heart to connect with and inspire others around you.

Feeling the authentic vibes and want more? Read on my friend!

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

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Washington, DC  with the Environmental Defense Fund. We are in the middle of a series of systems thinking workshops to help two teams re-frame how they’re approaching their work around agriculture and pollinator habitat.

Washington, DC with the Environmental Defense Fund. We are in the middle of a series of systems thinking workshops to help two teams re-frame how they’re approaching their work around agriculture and pollinator habitat.

Stamford, Connecticut  for the kickoff of an Ethics Week focusing on integrity in action. This is part of a synthesis of survey themes from employees that I created ahead of time for the client. Major kudos to the team there for their creativity and for facilitating the conversation that inspired this email!

Stamford, Connecticut for the kickoff of an Ethics Week focusing on integrity in action. This is part of a synthesis of survey themes from employees that I created ahead of time for the client. Major kudos to the team there for their creativity and for facilitating the conversation that inspired this email!

ConverSketch is Six!

This week marks the sixth year since ConverSketch first came into the world wielding markers, chalks and insights.

Each year I enjoy putting together some of the top lessons or patterns emerging in my world (here’s the link to last year’s, and the year before that). This year I’m taking a slightly different approach, sharing insights and areas I intend to explore more in the coming months.

Three of my biggest insights this year:

  • Cultivate Intuition. Whether it’s trusting I know what’s most important to capture while graphic recording or making decisions on which direction to take my business, I know that listening to my intuition leads me to where I need to be. This is a consistent thread I find myself returning to over and over again.
  •  I’m a Thought Partner. More than only a fun diversion at a conference, I have found most joy and positive impact with my clients when I approach the work as a Thought Partner bringing deep value to their team and goals.
  • Relationship-Building for Success. This year in particular highlighted several groups who were new, forming, or had never worked together in person. Hosting an off-site or retreat with everyone in the same physical space underlined the power of face-to-face, human connection and relationship-building for successful events.

Three things I want to explore in the next year:

  • Listening Lenses. How can I tune my inner radio to the frequency that will best serve the group? What level of listening is most needed to do that? 
  • Weaving Story. How to I hone my skills to listen for and weave together a visual that will tell the core of the group’s story? How can I better engage with my video clients to ask the questions that will really help them tell the core of their story, and connect with their desired audiences?
  • Systems Scribing. This year I want to practice moving around, listening for different chunks of information, and using the entire sheet to map the system to bring forth connections to serve the group best.

I am in awe of the amazing groups I get to partner with. It is an honor to visualize their ideas, be trusted to listen and hold the energy of the room, and distill it into a visual map that will be carried forward to remind them of the work they’ve done and connections they’ve made.

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

Cheers, Karina

Ready to make your even more meaningful and memorable with some visuals? Let's chat!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Denver  - Last week I had the honor of capturing and holding space for an organization going through some major changes and growing pains. Partnering with a talented and experienced facilitator, I really understood the power the visuals have to help people feel heard, let go, gain clarity about the future, and move on.

Denver - Last week I had the honor of capturing and holding space for an organization going through some major changes and growing pains. Partnering with a talented and experienced facilitator, I really understood the power the visuals have to help people feel heard, let go, gain clarity about the future, and move on.

Newest ConverSketch Illustrated Video – Cabrillo National Monument

This is the second installment of the “Drawing Change” series I’m doing in partnership with the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program. Learn about ocean acidification and how aquatic animals are adapting in a changing ocean.

In the Studio!  This week I’m filming the first of a new series of videos about wildfire risk management and how scientists are using models and aerial maps to help managers plan ahead to more effectively manage wildfires when they do happen.

In the Studio! This week I’m filming the first of a new series of videos about wildfire risk management and how scientists are using models and aerial maps to help managers plan ahead to more effectively manage wildfires when they do happen.