Clarity First Newsletter,
August 16, 2019

“It’s important to remember on this anniversary that the true meaning of Woodstock was spiritual. My line about ‘there is little bit of heaven in every disaster area’ was a realized truth.” – Wavy Gravy

Clarity First

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

50 years ago yesterday, today and tomorrow more than 400,000 people gathered on a farm in Bethel, New York to celebrate three days of peace and music.

The reality is that the event should have been a disaster. Organizers had planned for fewer than 100,000 people, and there was not adequate food, water nor sanitation for such a huge crowd. But somehow it wasn’t a disaster.

I’ve read a lot of accounts of the festival, and one thing is really clear. Wavy Gravy, a self-described “clown, kid’s camp director, humanitarian, activist, pacifist and temple of accumulated error” was the patron saint of Woodstock. He and his commune the Hog Farm worked tirelessly behind the scenes to find, hold and protect the peace that the festival’s poster promised. (That’s his gravelly voice announcing breakfast in bed in the film.)

About the festival Wavy said: “It is important to remember on this anniversary that the true meaning of Woodstock was spiritual….When Janis Joplin said, ‘If you have any food left, share it with your bother and sister. That’s the person on your right and on your left,’ it was a realized truth. When people reacted to that sacred advice they got a deep print on the goodness of sharing. It just covered the crowd like a carpet of god.”

He went on to say that in subsequent years he was disappointed that the energy was ultimately not able to “turn this whole death thing around”. But “Then I started to see the spirt of Woodstock surface in our children, and in our children’s children. I see it now in their quest for a just and lasting peace on earth and space. One hundred, no, one thousand years could pass away from those fateful August afternoons, and yet those holy vibes will sail eternal through the stars.”

Happy anniversary, Woodstock. You showed us that we can learn to share what we’ve got. And thank you Hog Farm, for modeling how to have fun while doing it, way past the point when the going got tough.

Design thinking

An academic survey shows how and why design thinking works

By now design thinking, with it’s emphasis on using diverse teams to consider ethnographic research, reframe problems, and to experiment together, has been around long enough to become ridiculed as just a trend du jour. So, Jeanne Liedtka did a deep, seven-year study to look at 50 projects from a range of sectors, including business, health care, and social services. Her survey convinced her that design thinking is a social technology that has the potential to do for innovation exactly what TQM (total quality management) did for manufacturing in the 80s: unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.

Article: Why Design Thinking Works

Diet for a small planet

Who doesn’t love a good sustainability smack down?

“Impossible Burger at Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Already a $19.5 billion market, alternative proteins are expected to capture 10 percent of the global meat market within 15 years, according to a report released in February by Euromonitor. (Still, it said, conventional meat will grow faster than meat alternatives over the next four years.)

“From a resource efficiency standpoint — making the highest and best use of feedstocks and materials — the Impossible burger requires 87 percent less water, 96 percent less land and produces 89 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than an equivalent-sized beef burger, according to its life-cycle analysis (LCA) conducted by metrics firm Quantis.

“But don’t write off beef’s environmental impacts too quickly. Although a plant-rich diet is ranked No. 4 on Project Drawdown’s list of 100 solutions to reverse global warming, there is a growing case for cattle grazing as a regenerative, carbon-sequestering approach to land management.”

Article: Is an Impossible Burger Circular?

Sustainability, Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting

Give your sustainability report some love.

“ESG (environmental, social and governance) forms the crux of the increasingly connected worlds of finance and sustainability. With mounting evidence of the positive relationship between ESG performance and improved risk mitigation and long-term financial value, institutional investors are calling on companies to better communicate their sustainability story.

“But it’s still the “Wild West” of ESG communication — and corporate sustainability professionals have no clear path to follow. What they need is a guide for successful sustainability storytelling.

The Formula for Communicating ESG, a new white paper developed by the thinkPARALLAX team, provides a practical guide for planning and executing an effective communications strategy to achieve higher ESG ratings. This includes having a solid foundation, strong sustainability report and effective supporting communications.”

Article: The Formula for Telling Sustainability Stories That Stick

Just sayin’

“Democracy thrives best in a society whose water is drinkable, whose schools impart a decent education, whose denizens have adequate incomes and hope for the future.” – Rebecca Solnit, Tyranny of the Minority

(Thanks to Stowe Boyd for the referral.)

Visual Identity

See what happened when website-building company, Wix, offered nonprofits a chance to get their websites refreshed.

“Wix, the website-building platform company, spent the summer teaching a mix of recent design school graduates and early and mid-career professionals some new tricks to revamp their portfolios. One of the major projects included partnering with several New York nonprofits in need of a digital facelift.”

Article: 3 Nonprofit Rebrandings That Show the Power of Design in Amplifying a Mission

Corporate responsibility, Sustainability

Feeling good about KitKats

“Starting from the end of this September, Nestlé Japan will be making a big change to the look of their KitKat range, by saying sayonara to their plastic packaging.

“By switching to paper packaging, Nestle expects to save 418 tons of plastic every year. It’s all part of the company’s commitment to only use 100-percent recyclable and reusable packaging by 2025.”

Article: Japanese KitKats Swap Plastic Bags for Paper Packaging with New Origami Feature

Personal development

Our struggles aren’t that unique.

“Because it’s outrageously easy to compare our insides to other peoples’ outsides, we can become convinced that everyone else has their lives together and we’re fundamentally broken. But the truth is, we’re not alone.

“’Inside, so many of us at our core are worried that we’re scarred, wounded, and broken, and we’re never going to be healed,’ says Michelle Chalfant, therapist and creator of The Adult Chair model. ‘And we hide it. We wear these masks in order to project who we think other people think they want us to be.’”

“’I’ve been surprised by how often the same worries, concerns, self-critical thoughts, and sad ruminations come out of different people’s mouths,’ says Jon Petruschke, a therapist in Portland, Maine. ‘We often mistake normal features and behaviors of the human brain for character flaws or personal defects. You’re not damaged or flawed or broken for having these thoughts or feelings.'”

Article: You’re Not Broken: What Therapists Want Us to Know About the Human Experience.

Clarity News

A reminder that today until midnight is your last chance to get an early bird discount for the DIY Brand Camp I am offering on September 10.

Come learn how to identify and attract more right-fit clients, partners and team members. Learn more.



By Saturday afternoon 50 years ago in Bethel, it was raining. Hard.

People are high, and they do their best to keep their spirits the same. But it’s wet on the stage, too, and the Dead, who were scheduled to go on before  Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who and the Jefferson Airplane, don’t go on ’till 10:30.

The vibe is heavy. Who do you want providing the musical accompaniment? How about the house band at the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests?

Archivists and purists rate this set kind off low. It’s not one of their best, they say. But I beg to differ. This is the Dead at their best. This community needed a lift, and the Dead swooped in with their encompassing, inclusive energy. Step aside. The Grateful Dead has done this before.

Video: Grateful Dead – Woodstock Festival – 8-16-69

Image of the Week

The image of the week is the poster for Woodstock. It was designed by Arnold Skolnick, a long-time western Massachusetts resident. In 1969 he was a New York graphic designer and advertising director. He was approached by Woodstock’s organizers to design a replacement for the festival’s original poster.

Designer Michael Skolnick, who lives in western Massachusetts, with the iconic Woodstock festival poster he created in 1969.   JOHN VOCI /  NEPR

“’They had the first poster, which nobody liked — it was called Age of Aquarius,’ Skolnick said. ‘They called me in and said, ‘What do you think of this poster?’ I said, ‘Not much.’ They said, ‘Can you do another one?’ I said, ‘When do you need it?’ This was Thursday afternoon. They said, ‘We need it Monday morning.’ So, I said, ‘Fine.’”

It was he who distilled the offer into the words ‘three days of peace and music’. “They said, ‘we’re going to have a festival with arts and crafts and music’. I turned it around to say ‘three days of peace and music.’ So, it started with the words.”

Article: Meet The Designer Who Created The Iconic 1969 Woodstock Festival Poster


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