Clarity First Newsletter, August 18, 2017

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

This week, while the world watched in horror as the bully in chief further desecrated the office of the U.S. President, the birthday of E.F. Schumacher, the man who introduced the concept of an economics of peace to the western world, went largely unnoticed. It made me think that we’d be happier if we looked toward the light of those who contribute constructive and wholistic thinking to the human conversation than toward the darkness of those whose aim is to foster fear and aggression. Happy birthday, Ernest. We still have a lot to learn from you.

Celebrating economics as if people matter

To celebrate the man and his contributions on the 106th anniversary of his birth, the Schumacher Center for Economics pointed to Schumacher’s landmark 1966 essay, Buddhist Economics, the work that became the cornerstone of Small is Beautiful, Economics as if People Mattered. In an age of increasing income disparity, environmental degradation and erosion of human communities, his call for an economics of common good is more relevant now than ever before.
Essay: Buddhist Economics

Meditations that can help foster wisdom in times of tragedy.

“Times are difficult globally,” says American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. “Awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal. It’s becoming critical.” The Buddhist view is that upsetting experiences offer an opportunity to directly experience wisdom and compassion — exactly what is needed in times of crisis.
Article: Two Practices for Times of Tragedy

Design for everyone is design for no one.

At the beginning of each new project, product design firm Design that Matters creates a point of view statement to focus the project on the need, users, and contexts that will be included and excluded from the final design. While written for project teams that are designing things, the same process can be employed by people designing communications. This exercise makes the creative brief that much more useful and relevant.
Article: Design Experience That Matters: How Focus Leads to Bigger Impact

We all need a user-manual.

If you use the exact same approach with two different people, you can get very different outcomes. Say hello to the one page “user-manual”, a simple document that expresses your personal work style and preferences. The manual aims to help people learn to adapt to one another by offering an explicit description of one’s personal values and how one works best with others. This shortens the learning curve for new employees, and helps everyone avoid misunderstandings.
Article: Completing This 30-Minute Exercise Makes Teams Less Anxious and More Productive.

Color is central to clear brand identity. Just ask Prince. 

The Pantone Color Institute has created “a standardized custom color” to honor Prince.
Article: Prince gets his own Pantone color

Six Elements for Building Innovation Capacity

This article was written for nonprofits, but it’s relevant for any organization. Innovation capacity starts with catalytic leadership that empowers staff to solve problems that matter. Organizations that share this, and five other measurable elements, tend to have a better capacity for resilience and innovation.
Article: Is Your Nonprofit Built for Sustained Innovation?

Office buzz

Speaking of catalytic leadership, I am a proud member of the Board of Directors of the Greenfield Community College Foundation. Yesterday, college president Bob Pura sent a letter to the whole school community about the school’s response to the events in Charlottesville. It is a model of how to do it right. When an institution has an articulated and shared commitment to inclusion, equity, and justice for all, that organization has a clear and obvious compass. When that institution has a leader whose first interest is to pull other seekers and learners forward, then our community has the best community college in the world.

Thank you, Bob. This week was really scary. Your letter reminded me that I, too, believe that love will prevail. And you reminded me of the power of a catalytic leader who is rooted in vision and values. A deep bow to you.
Letter: A Message of Love and Respect from the President


I’ve noticed that when the going gets tough, the tough turn to soul music. This week I found great comfort in this August 2013 recording of Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires performing live at the Bumbershoot Music Lounge in Seattle. Yeah, Charles, “don’t let the future play with your mind”.

Images of the week

Graphic designer Ji Lee’s Twitter profile says that he “Works at Facebook / Born in Korea / Raised in Brazil / Lives in NYC”. He has an apparently tireless amount of energy for side projects, many of which he showcases on his website, Please Enjoy. These images are part of an endeavor he calls Word As Image. The whole series is clever, funny, and deceptively simple. Wait until you see what he does with the words Condom, Horizon and Moon.

What’s Clarity First?

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

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on, or, better yet, think of us when your organization needs to understand and tell its story more effectively.

Leave a Comment