visual storytelling

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?

Conversketches 6 15 Minutes

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 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

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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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.

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!

What Every Event Organizer Wants to Hear & How to Make it Happen

No matter what your job is, there’s a good chance you’ve had to organize some sort of meeting. And if you haven’t, you probably will. Whether it’s a regular small-team meeting or a massive annual conference, there’s often a lot more work put into organizing a well-run event.

So, first of all, for all you event organizers out there, I raise a glass to you and all the work behind-the-scenes or otherwise un-thanked you do!

Next, if you’re organizing a meeting/gathering/convening/conference/event/show, I want to give you something. Have you ever heard someone at an event you organized say something like…

“This was unforgettable!”

“This was the BEST conference I’ve ever attended!”

“I got SO MUCH out of that meeting!”

“I can’t WAIT to use what I learned with the rest of my team!”

...or even a simple “THANK YOU!”

These are just a few things you, as an organizer may be yearning to hear or overhear. Why? Those things mean your participants felt valued, saw something from a new perspective, that they were present and engaged, and that you’ve helped them do their jobs or live their lives better. And while there are heaps of ways you can create an event that is meaningful and participants love, I’ve got one sure-fire way to get people fired up (in a good way).

Bring in a graphic recorder.

Having someone visually scribing the content, listening for connections, or even for what’s not being said can catapult participants from looking at their phone screens under the table, to wondering how their ideas can be incorporated into the mural being created. Seeing visual summaries of conversations and discussions moves groups from “My idea” to “Our vision” and “Actions I can take”. It can give them tangible stepping stones to take what they learned and move forward, or help unravel a previously complex and mystifying topic.

So, the next time your team is starting to plan an important event, consider a graphic recorder, facilitator or scribe to support your participants, honor their time, and help them do the best thinking they can.

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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

Want to hear “You’re the BEST organizer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with!” from your clients? Let’s talk about blowing their minds!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Turning Dull Trainings into Delightful Drawings:  The US Forest Service has to deal with a lot of challenging situations; if you live in the Western US, you probably know about the prolific wildfires this year. But did you also know the USFS is responsible for hazardous waste spills and clean up? I’m working to help explain the complexity of Spill Response Coordinators and how they work with other agencies when things get leaky. Here's a chart from the initial brainstorming session I facilitated.

Turning Dull Trainings into Delightful Drawings: The US Forest Service has to deal with a lot of challenging situations; if you live in the Western US, you probably know about the prolific wildfires this year. But did you also know the USFS is responsible for hazardous waste spills and clean up? I’m working to help explain the complexity of Spill Response Coordinators and how they work with other agencies when things get leaky. Here's a chart from the initial brainstorming session I facilitated.

Digital Scribing for ShapingEDU : Last spring I attended the ASU UnConference for on the future of higher education, technology, and meaningful learning for students. I'm in awe of how the organizers have carried the incredible energy of the 100+ participants forward into monthly video calls with participants from around the world on topics from the in-person event. The engagement was astounding, and I got to do live digital scribing while screen-sharing!

Digital Scribing for ShapingEDU: Last spring I attended the ASU UnConference for on the future of higher education, technology, and meaningful learning for students. I'm in awe of how the organizers have carried the incredible energy of the 100+ participants forward into monthly video calls with participants from around the world on topics from the in-person event. The engagement was astounding, and I got to do live digital scribing while screen-sharing!

Editing Cave:  Working on the final video for the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, who use advanced mapping tools to help managers and responders make safer and more effective decisions about when and where to mitigate a wildfire.

Editing Cave: Working on the final video for the Wildfire Risk Management Science Team, who use advanced mapping tools to help managers and responders make safer and more effective decisions about when and where to mitigate a wildfire.

How do You Paint what Makes A Community Unique?

You’ve probably seen some cryptic emails from me over the past few weeks about a surprise project I was working on. I’m delighted now to share it with you all, along with a special behind-the-scenes look at what went into the design.

On August 2nd, to the sweet sounds of the Hazel Miller Band, the 100th Piano About Town was officially unveiled as a part of our community! And yep, you guessed it, I was the lucky artist to get to paint it!

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The typical piano process includes a request for proposals from artists sketched out, which are then reviewed and selected for painting outside where passers by can watch the piano unfolding and sometimes even play while it’s being painted.

For the 100th Piano, the Bohemian Foundation wanted to do something a little different and include voices across the community. Enter: a graphic facilitator to conduct and capture focus groups to gather ideas for the piano content.

I listened to people answering the question “What makes Fort Collins unique?”: from seniors to second graders at summer camp to young professionals to those who represent diverse groups at university to musicians. I listened, captured, asked questions, and scribed each group’s conversations.

100th Piano Fort Collins BaseCamp Kids Graphic Facilitation Chart

Then, I took all the charts and began looking for themes. What places did each group bring up? What characteristics make our community special? Then, I sketched out a concept design to gather feedback and refine before painting the piano itself.

This was, to me, the most challenging part of the whole process. How do you distill over five hours of stories, memories, and connections into a single illustration? That’s where the scribe training of listening for themes, distillation and synthesis really shone in this process. It was important to me to make sure all the ideas were included, that key words emerged throughout the imagery, and most of all, that when anyone from the community looks at the piano, they see themselves somewhere in it.

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The painting took place inside so it would be a fun, beautiful surprise when it was unveiled at a free concert series last week. Over 12 days, the landscape, people, and stories emerged!

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Want to tickle the ivories and see it for yourself? The 100th Piano will be in Old Town Square for a couple more weeks, then will live in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery for the winter.

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For more musings on pianos and creativity, check out this post.

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

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 

On My Way to New York, New York!  This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my  Instagram  profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

On My Way to New York, New York! This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my Instagram profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

In the Studio:   Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

In the Studio: Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

Happy Summer from ConverSketch

While I’ve touted the power of consistency in previous posts, the fact of the matter is…it’s summer. Between graphic recording jobs, we took a week and explored San Francisco and the Northern California coast on the way to a stunning wedding of dear friends on the Smith River.

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And, as I mentioned in my last dispatch, this summer I've had the honor of working on a surprise project which will be unveiled on Thursday, August 2nd in Old Town Square, Fort Collins at 7 pm. The Hazel Miller Band will be playing a Thursday Night Live concert in the Square, so if you're in NoCo, come on down, listen to some great music, and check out what I've been up to!

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That big ol’ surprise project isn’t quite done, so…that’s my cue to leave you with this short, sweet update email. Now go enjoy some summer time!

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

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Which of These 5 Common Meeting Problems Would You Like to End?

Think to the last meeting you had. How did you feel when you left? Was it everything you imagined (and more)…or not so much? Today I’ve pulled together some of my least favorite meeting situations, AND, because I’m a big fan of being proactive, there are a few ideas to help address these issues.

Someone keeps bringing up the same point over and over again.

This tends to be one symptom when someone doesn’t feel heard, so making sure everyone can see how their ideas fit into the bigger picture of the conversation often nips this behavior quickly and easily.

You leave with your head spinning and you have no idea what you just did for the past 55 minutes.

When content is complex or there’s uncertainty about moving forward, conversations can quickly get convoluted. Partnering with a graphic recorder who visually maps the conversation in real time illuminates connections, questions, and momentum. The map also shows the group exactly how much they DID accomplish over the course of the meeting, and where more work is needed to move forward.

You can’t get a word in edgewise because someone dominates the conversation.

Graphic facilitators can help you design creative and engaging meeting agendas to include different ways of communicating. They also have smooth strategies for making space for all voices to be heard and valued (see also: first bullet).

You had a ridiculously collaborative, creative, breakthrough meeting…Then everyone scatters and nothing happens.

This one is tricky and deceptive, because it’s difficult to track and recognize. Ask your visual partner to work with you to create ways to continue leveraging the charts after the meeting. One way to clarify next steps and expectations is to include time to map out who’s doing what by when.

You don’t know why this meeting is necessary.

Help you team be clear on exactly what you plan to accomplish by creating a visual agenda that you can send out ahead of time and/or hang up during the meeting; Having clear goals and expectations will set you and your meeting up for success. For example, if someone thinks the goal is brainstorming but their ideas keep getting shut down, they’ll probably shut down too. Or, if your team needs to prioritize and make decisions, but new ideas keep getting thrown in the mix, people will often get jaded or confused about what you’re doing and, you guessed it, shut down.

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

What are your meeting pet peeves? Let’s hear ‘em, then craft some solutions to get your Meeting A Game back!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Lamar, Colorado:  Rural Philanthropy Days was all about connecting organizations and rural communities with resources and support. We launched the event with a World Café to hear what matters most to participants.

Lamar, Colorado: Rural Philanthropy Days was all about connecting organizations and rural communities with resources and support. We launched the event with a World Café to hear what matters most to participants.

Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming:  Working on visioning with a multi-generational family of wealth with a 100+ year family business and history of philanthropy.

Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming: Working on visioning with a multi-generational family of wealth with a 100+ year family business and history of philanthropy.

I'm Up to Something.

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Karina

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

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

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

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