Clarity First Newsletter, April 27, 2018

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

I like Mary Oliver’s insistence on referring to serendipity and coincidence as grace. The word has a certain trust baked into it, a faith that there is rightness in whatever is happening. As she says, I don’t exactly know what it is, but it feels good, and I’ll take it over fear and despair any day.

New Economy

Finding the path toward collaborative rather than competitive advantage

In the current, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins” economic model, even the winners lose. “Ultimately we have to understand that short-term wins of competitive and exploitative companies come at a massive long-term cost to all of society, ecosystems’ health and eventually the business and its staff themselves.”
Article: Business in the Age of Regeneration: Transformative Innovation and Collaborative Advantage


A field guide to three qualities of story and narrative that we can use to change systems

“Story has many different qualities that make it useful for the work of systems change. It’s a direct route to our emotions, and therefore important to decision-making. It creates meaning out of patterns. It coheres communities. It engenders empathy across difference. It enables the possible to feel probable in ways our rational minds can’t comprehend. When it comes to changing the values, mindsets, rules, and goals of a system, story is foundational.”
Article: Using Story to Change Systems


Talk to a real person who cares.

“If you want to connect with your readers or customers and get them to trust you, talk to them as you would to a good friend.” In fact, it helps to first identify that one good friend you are writing to.
Article: How to Build Trust With Your Audience by Writing Conversationally


What brands look like “when you hoik them out of the sea, all salty and knackered”. 

To wake the world to the endemic global issue of plastics polluting our oceans, Greenpeace has been working with London design agency Lovers. One tactic they’re using is a “brand jam” on Coca-Cola. Using parody to skirt IP laws, the integrated campaign distorts Coca-Cola’s wave graphic by populating it with plastic bottles and a whale’s tail. Ads proclaim that “We know that Coke can do better.” This article has a lot of other examples of both this great effort, and the larger End Ocean Plastics campaign of which it is part.
Article: Lovers’ Campaign for Greenpeace Borrowed from the “Grotesque Brand Soup” Found in Our Oceans

Group Process/Presentation

The memos that drive one of the most successful companies in the world.

According to Jeff Bezos, the key to his little bookstore’s success is high expectations that meet specific standards. “They are teachable, they are domain specific, you must recognize them, and you must explicitly coach realistic scope.” That, and no death by PowerPoint. No one is allowed to communicate their expectations or standards with slides. Ever. Instead, “Amazazonians” come to meetings with “narratively structured six-page memos,” which attendees read silently at the start of the meeting. Regular readers of this letter won’t be surprised to note that memo writers are encouraged to engage peer reviewers, and to develop multiple drafts. It seems to work.
Article: What Amazon Learned by Having Employees Write Stories Instead of Doing PowerPoints

Branding/Visual Identity

Another brand catches up to changes in what it does and how it does it

A new Battersea brand id program deploys “honest and straightforward language expressed by a tone of voice that speaks with joy, principles, expertise and endeavor.” It is so great to see one clear idea expressed across so many media.
Article: Pentagram Designs New Identity for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home


Creativity isn’t a logical process.

Feeling stuck? Maybe you need to go to your hat closet, pick one, and wear it until inspiration strikes. That’s what Dr. Seuss did. Concerned that your essence might be prone to slipping away? Do what Pablo Picasso did: refuse to throw away your old clothes, hair trimmings or fingernail clippings. Ellen Weinstein has gathered a book of Recipes for Good Luck: The Superstitions, Rituals, and Practices of Extraordinary People. The Paris Review has summarized ten.
Article: Ten Superstitions of Writers and Artists 

Ms. Lauryn Hill performing at this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty



In August 1998 Ms. Lauryn Hill released her debut solo album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’. Since that time it has earned platinum status eight-times over. The week before last she appeared as a surprise guest of DJ Snake during his performance at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Then, a couple of days later, she announced that in honor of its 20th anniversary, she will perform her entire classic album on a slew of  North American tour dates. To get you in the mood, here’s three songs from that yummy delicious record: Everything is Everything  (official video), Doo-Wop (That Thing) (live on Austin City Limits), and Ex-Factor (live in Japan).

Before she was a solo phenom, of course, she was a founding member of Fugees. Her resurgence inspired me to use that group’s cover of Killing Me Softly With His Song as the inspiration for a mix-tape:  Easy Listening for Moderns, Number 1.


Image of the Week

The Image of the Week is Shuffleton’s Barber Shop, by Norman Rockwell. It’s one of the paintings that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court just cleared the Berkshire Museum to sell.

Rockwell, and the Berkshire Museum both mean something to me, so I’ve written more about this story at my blog: Speculative Investing in Art Takes the Art Out of Art.

If you don’t feel like going all the way over there, the executive summary is: this painting dodged the worst of the speculative bullets. George Lucas bought it for his new museum, so it will be in a public place. But the art market is crazy. Current valuations push many museums right out of the market. Many masterpieces are disappearing into private collections. It seems that Bread and Puppet Theater’s Why Cheap Art? Manifesto was unusually prescient.

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by Mitch Anthony, and Clarity, the consultancy that helps mission-driven companies use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as powerful tools for transformation. Learn more.

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