Clarity First Newsletter, April 26, 2019


Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live. 

This week I’m reading Creative Quest, Questlove’s brilliant exploration of creativity and the creative process. He points out that part of building your creative identity is learning how to understand yourself as a part of a collaborative environment.

“You need counselors, foils, and competitors. You need high-level models for inspiration and flatfoots to tell you the truth. You breathe in all kinds of air so you’re never in a vacuum. …Other people are answers to questions, and the biggest question is what question they’re answering. …Maybe the singer you know is useful for teaching you about harmonies, but maybe she’s better at teaching you to bounce back from disappointment.”

What are you learning this week from the people with whom you are collaborating? What questions do they present?

Happy Friday. It’s spring.


Connection to each other can do more than save our souls.
It can rescue us fom societal collapse.

David Brooks has noticed that “the foundational layer of American society — the network of relationships and commitments and trust that the state and the market and everything else relies upon — is failing. And the results are as bloody as any war.”

But he is hopeful. He points to the many, many people who are are “leading us toward a culture that puts relationships at the center. They ask us to measure our lives by the quality of our attachments, to see that life is a qualitative endeavor, not a quantitative one. They ask us to see others at their full depths, and not just as a stereotype, and to have the courage to lead with vulnerability.”

He’s talking about it in his new book. The promise that connection to people, place and ecosystem can redeem us is a healing salve in these scary times. But it’s more than a salve. It’s a solution.

Book ReviewDavid Brooks on the Importance of Connection
CBS This Morning: David Brooks on Valuing Relationships Over Personal Success


Workspaces, Organizational Health
Coworking spaces are better for people and the companies they work for.

Wework coworking space at One Lincoln St. in Boston

“Over the past several years, we have studied how coworking environments impact individual workers, taking into account the amenities, branding, aesthetics, and unique cultures created from diverse people and companies working together under one roof. We have found that workers benefit from coworking spaces more than traditional offices. They experience greater levels of flexibility and thriving (defined as vitality and learning at work), a greater ability to network, as well as a stronger sense of community. However, up until now, we have not known how this impacts the businesses they work for.

“In our latest study, we set out to answer this question: How do highly curated coworking cultures impact the professional identities of members and their organizations?”

Article: How Coworking Spaces Affect Employees’ Professional Identities


Organizational Health
Considering competition in a more holistic context

“Competition is part of the modus operandi of human beings. If we look at nature, we see competition and collaboration happening all the time. In a holonomic view of any system, we understand that it is not one or the other, but one and another. Competition itself is not, therefore, something negative or destructive; rather, it is a form of development, which emerges naturally from the human desire to do better and to achieve more.”

Article: Competition, Cooperation and Human Values in Organizations


Diversity, Inclusion
Bias is a human condition, not a character flaw.

“Like many other people of color, I often struggle with calling out bias when I’m on the receiving end of it. The delicate dance between making my point and doing it in a way that doesn’t offend or put the other person on the defensive is extremely difficult to execute. And then I also have issues with the idea that I had to be the one who thought about it in the first place. After all, it shouldn’t be the job of minorities and marginalized communities to educate others about their blind spots, especially when they face enough additional emotional labor in their day-to-day lives.

Article: How to Confront Bias Without Alienating People


Learning, Design Process
Creativity as a means to conquer borders.
Creativity as a fundamental right.

“The Bauhaus pioneered a spirit which today, 100 years after its doors first opened, still rings true. While its modernist influences on the worlds of art and design are plain to see, the school’s legacy largely lies in the principles it instilled in a generation of makers and thinkers. These are principles that see creativity promoted as a means to conquer borders (of countries and disciplines), and as a fundamental right for all to learn about and come into contact with. But what is it about this institution that continues to shape how we both think about and approach art and design? What can be learned and applied to today’s tumultuous socio-political landscape, from an ethos conceived a century ago? And how can designers adapt its legacy for contemporary purposes to ensure these principles live on?”

Article: When Work Becomes Play: What We Can Learn from the Bauhaus 100 Years On


Envisioning a brand’s hierarchy of needs

In their book, Friction: Passion Brands in the Age of Disruption, Jeff Rosenblum and Jordan Berg use psychologist Abraham Maslow’s concept of a pyramid of needs to envision a healthy brand. They’ve replaced basic needs as the large, foundational bottom with leadership, which they say is “simply about getting an entire organization aligned for a specific goal”.

But Rosenblum and Berg warn that most brands have built their hierarchy upside down. “Based on overall expenditures, interruptive advertising typically occupies the widest, most foundational part of the pyramid. The foundation of the pyramid should not be paid advertising.” Instead, they say, once the whole company is clear on who it is and where it is going “from there, it’s about empowering the audience through content that improves category performance and experiences that improve the brand relationship. With that foundation in place, advertising can be effectively and efficiently used as the final stage of the hierarchy.”

Article: Brands Also Have A Hierarchy Of Needs


Learning to talk about racial, ethnic and gender diversity

Merrill Perlman is a copy geek. She managed copy desks across the newsroom at The New York Times for 25 years. Today one of the reasons she looks forward to the ANNUAL CONFERENCE of ACES: The Society for Editing is the session during which the Associated Press announces changes to its stylebook. “This year, many of the changes centered on racial, ethnic, and gender entries.”

Article: AP Tackles Language About Race in This Year’s Style Guide



“Culminating in a special release for Record Store Day and a digital debut on 19 April, Vitamin String Quartet (known for 20 years worth of classical covers of popular songs) pays homage to Björk with a full-length offering entitled Vitamin String Quartet Performs Björk. The 13-track release spans Björk‘s discography—with obvious fan favorites from her first few albums as well as songs from more recent releases.

“ ‘She seems so fearless in everything she does, so her music follows suit.  There’s so much there to chew on, whether it’s subdued, sublime, or outright confrontational. It presents opportunities to play with rock/pop, downtempo, electronic, classical, avant-garde, and more,’ James Curtiss, the Quartet’s creative director, says. ‘So few artists are willing to run through so many idioms, giving you the chance to do the same. It’s dynamic and that is always the best place to be playing and creating from.’ ”

Article: Premier: Vitamin String Quartet’s Rendition of Björk’s “Wanderlust”


Image of the Week

The image of the week is by US photographer Daniel Lyons. It won him first place in the Single Image Category of the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2019. The awards “brought together the work of photographers from 20 countries on five continents around the world. Interpretations were numerous and varied, ranging from self-portraits to documentary-style images, including studio installations, spontaneous shots, and traditional and contemporary techniques. Some entries had continuous stories behind their images, while others simply focused on the simple, direct beauty of an interesting face.”

Article: Winners of LensCulture’s 2019 Portrait Awards Competition


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If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a tool for transformation. Learn more.

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