Clarity First Newsletter, August 25, 2017

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

This week’s subject line was also the opening line of the first Whole Earth Catalog, in 1968. Indeed, we are as gods, and why not get good at it?
48 years later we are still asking the same question. Meanwhile, back at the home office, here are some ideas and resources that came across my desk this week.

Design thinking is awesome, but it’s not enough.

“Design thinking is 100% effective at 50% of what is needed to actually get an innovation to market.” Oops. Without a viable business strategy built right into an idea at the outset, great ideas that benefit everyone never reach us.
Business Model team, we need you.
Article: The Trouble with Design Thinking

Why co-ops, regional currencies, and hackerspaces are pointing the way toward a new economic vision.

How we can overcome the structural pathologies of our rigged economy and toxic political culture, and galvanize new movements capable of building functional alternatives.
Article: To Find Alternatives to Capitalism, Think Small

Your brand isn’t about you. It’s about how you help your customers meet their own goals.

Effective product and service design is rooted in a company’s understanding of how they help their user meet their user’s needs. Call them job drivers. They’re different than jobs. Jobs are the specific tasks your customers are asking for help with. Job drivers are the underlying contexts that make certain jobs more or less important.
Article: Building Brands on Consumer Tasks 

What would Google do?

In its spare time Google has been building a blog of “Practices, research, and tools from Google to improve your people processes”. Yikes. They’ve opened the cupboard of Google-way procedures for all to use.
Blog: reWork. Practices, Research, and Ideas from Google and Other Organizations to Put People First. 

Let the motion in the shot determine the cut.

As a young man Pablo Picasso was an accomplished classical artist. Then he tore classical art apart and put it back together in a new way. Film editor Sven Pape (he’s cut for James Cameron, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and James Franco) deconstructs Picasso’s approach and applies it to the art of film.
Video: What Picasso Can Teach Us About Filmmaking

Rethinking positive thinking

Science says that not only is positive visualization unlikely to lead to exceptional outcomes, the practice may actually trick our minds into taking it too easy, making actual outcomes worse. But, there is a hack that does work.
Article: Don’t Think Too Positive

Office buzz

Recently I presented a Clarity brand study to the board of a quasi-governmental agency. The quasi part had contributed to a great deal of misunderstanding within and without the organization of why, at the most base level, they existed, and at a more granular level, how they defined success. The governmental part meant that their process was creaky with requirements.

Not to worry; when you reach out and ask those you serve of their perception of how you help, they can help resolve confusion like this. And they did.

The day after the presentation the head administrator of the organization emailed me: “I have served this group for 30 years. I’ve never felt more excited and hopeful.”

Ouch that feels good. And listening is so simple.


Josh Ostrander is a Philly-born singer/songwriter who has been living and playing music in LA long enough be recording and performing under the moniker Mondo Cozmo. His music turns up the flame under the melting pot of rock, soul and Americana. You can hear Beck and the Stones circa 1990, as well as U2, Prince and Charlie Rich. You’ll recognize it immediately. You’ve never heard it before. His first album is called Plastic Soul. You can dip into it with this live reading of the cover song recorded in the KCRW studios.

Images of the week

This week’s images are by John Margolies. Margolies spent more than 30 years documenting the uniquely American outsider art of the roadside attraction. “Motel Dine-a-ville sign” was taken in Utah in 1991. “Gary’s Ice Cream” was taken in Jacksonville, Florida in 1979. Before his death last year he placed all of his work in the public domain, and now the Library of Congress has digitized and uploaded the more than 11,000 color slides from his archives so they are more easily accessible. Hyperallergic has the story.

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.

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  1. Elizabeth (Betsy) Schmidt says

    I enjoyed this week’s version of the Clarity Blog, as I do most weeks. This week I agreed with the post claiming that design thinking doesn’t automatically include financial considerations. I see limitations with the business model canvas as a solution to that dilemma, however, because the business model canvas fails to take social and environmental considerations into account. Instead of a business model canvas, I ask my students to create “social business model canvases.” Although several variations of a social business model canvas exist, I find the following article to be the most helpful. Ingrid Burkett, Using the Business Model Canvas for Social Design, Knode (no date), Design thinking has also been criticized for not considering systemic roadblocks to change. Maya Bernstein & Marty Linsky, Leading Change Through Adaptive Leadership, Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter 2016), Design thinking advocates would say this is all a matter of semantics, which may be true, but people seeking positive social change would be wise to ensure they are thinking along these lines, whichever approach they take.

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