Fire It Up

Hey folks!

We’re back from co-leading an absolutely stellar service learning trip in Kenya with a rockstar group of students from Colorado State University.

Between the significant time change, over 30 hours of travel, having been trusted with the safety and wellbeing of 12 college students, and having no internet or phone access for nearly 18 days, last week felt a little slow and fuzzy.

Which, in Karina-Speak, means a little frustrating.

Getting back, I was simultaneously fired up to immediately leap into projects and emails that had been put off during the trip, and at the same time I wanted to maintain the blissful state of disconnection and presence that being in Kenya facilitated.

Coming back to winter in Colorado, near our wood stove has been a favorite spot. So, naturally, I’ve been thinking about fire. For me, this month has been an exercise in understanding that all fires –whether they’re in a stove or the heart behind what you share with the world – need the right tending, fuel, and time to burn bright and clean.

Many of us feel the tension between creating space for ourselves and wanting to exceed our clients’ or teammates’ expectations. How do you keep your fire burning?

conversketch-learn-to-draw-fire

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

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Taking a nap…I mean in the Studio…working on several illustration pieces on paper and digitally.

Taking a nap…I mean in the Studio…working on several illustration pieces on paper and digitally.

Mapping Out Complexity  – with a local business with complexity and a big vision. I guided the founder through a two-hour session mapping out all the moving parts, how they are connected, gaps, next steps, and big picture vision. This can be shared with the whole team for transparent communication on the why, what and how of the business in the next year.

Mapping Out Complexity – with a local business with complexity and a big vision. I guided the founder through a two-hour session mapping out all the moving parts, how they are connected, gaps, next steps, and big picture vision. This can be shared with the whole team for transparent communication on the why, what and how of the business in the next year.

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.

unity-womens-village-samburu-kenya-conversketch

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.

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.

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!

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.

conversketch_abun-dance

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.

Here's What Your Design Thinking Process is Missing

Have you ever been invited to participate in or heard about a Design Sprint? Design thinking, design sprints, agile, human-centered design thinking, all of these terms have been popping into my world more often.

As tools used to innovate and spark creativity, if you’re using design thinking but haven’t partnered with a graphic recorder, you’re missing out on huge potential to support your team through visual thinking.

But wait, aren’t design thinking and visual thinking pretty much the same thing? Well, no. But I love this excellent post and illustration from Xplane to see the difference, and where some opportunities exist to infuse visual thinking into design thinking:

xplane-visual-thinking-design-thinking

Have you used any of these tools or strategies? How did it go? What other visual thinking tools are in the top drawer of your toolbox?

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?

Albuquerque, New Mexico:  Returning to support the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force for their Hospitals and Clinics Summit. These practitioners work hard every day to help educate and support new mothers so they can make the healthiest decisions for themselves and their babies.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: Returning to support the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force for their Hospitals and Clinics Summit. These practitioners work hard every day to help educate and support new mothers so they can make the healthiest decisions for themselves and their babies.

Painting in the Studio:  Not only am I working on filming another  Drawing Connections video  for the National Park Service, I’ve had some time in the past couple of weeks to do some painting for fun. This one of the Nokhu Crags went to the  Samburu Youth Education Fund  Harambe to raise money for education and leadership development for young people in Kenya.  Here’s a post  about why I care so much!   Please  contact me  for inquiries on commissions.

Painting in the Studio: Not only am I working on filming another Drawing Connections video for the National Park Service, I’ve had some time in the past couple of weeks to do some painting for fun. This one of the Nokhu Crags went to the Samburu Youth Education Fund Harambe to raise money for education and leadership development for young people in Kenya. Here’s a post about why I care so much!

Please contact me for inquiries on commissions.

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!

conversketch-neuland-micron-markers

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.

conversketch-markers-pilot

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

conversketch-microsoft-surface-pro-4-sketchbook

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.

So You Think You Can't Draw. I beg to Differ.

It’s been a crackling fall here at ConverSketch HQ, but I can’t wait to share this with you…the 100th Piano has found it’s way to a final home for the winter in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! You can find it in the section displaying Fort Collins’ history, and perhaps play a little tune!

karina-branson-100th-piano-about-town-fort-collins

One of the things I often hear when I whip out my markers and start scribing is “I could never draw like that.” I typically fire back the following response: “When was the last time you practiced?”

In anything, talent is certainly a factor, but something I believe many of us write off is the importance of practicing consistently. Would you run a marathon without training? Probably not!

I have never found drawing people to be particularly easy to do, but this year I’ve set out to improve my speed and creativity when drawing more detailed people. I DO love squiggle and bean-shape people  and there’s an enormous amount of information you can convey with even a simple human figure.

And, if you’re interested in learning to draw other things, check out almost any of my blog posts to learn how to do a quick sketch of something new. Don’t see what you want to learn to draw? Shoot me a message to let me know what you’d like to see!

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?

Graphic Facilitation    for the National Snow and Ice Data Center:  NSIDC is a repeat graphic facilitation client who I was delighted to hear has kept their strategic illustration from 2013 up on the walls to remind them of their shared vision, goals and the roadmap to get there.

Graphic Facilitation for the National Snow and Ice Data Center: NSIDC is a repeat graphic facilitation client who I was delighted to hear has kept their strategic illustration from 2013 up on the walls to remind them of their shared vision, goals and the roadmap to get there.



Technology and Higher Education at Metro State:  Creating a Story Map of the outcomes of a Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium where teams shared prototypes and offered feedback to leverage tech to enhance learning in higher education.

Technology and Higher Education at Metro State: Creating a Story Map of the outcomes of a Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium where teams shared prototypes and offered feedback to leverage tech to enhance learning in higher education.



Leadership Declarations in Virginia:  A curious challenge posed by this foundation client who wanted to give each participant the visual capture of their personal Leadership Declaration. The challenge? Fellows were leaving immediately following the session and needed to be able to travel with their drawings, so here’s what we came up with!

Leadership Declarations in Virginia: A curious challenge posed by this foundation client who wanted to give each participant the visual capture of their personal Leadership Declaration. The challenge? Fellows were leaving immediately following the session and needed to be able to travel with their drawings, so here’s what we came up with!

Optics Innovation in Austin:  Thinking critically about what the future could hold and how the eye care industry will navigate a swiftly changing landscape.

Optics Innovation in Austin: Thinking critically about what the future could hold and how the eye care industry will navigate a swiftly changing landscape.

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!