Clarity First Newsletter,
December 20, 2019

“It’s not differences that divide us. It’s our judgments about each other that do.”
-Margaret Wheatley

Clarity First

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

I write this letter the day before the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

I chose Margaret Wheatley to open the letter for her ability to step back and see the larger patterns at play during change and transition. As she has observed, “Change always involves a dark night when everything falls apart. Yet if this period of dissolution is used to create new meaning, then chaos ends and new order emerges.”

I, for one, could use a little new meaning, a new order. The old one is not serving most, and the dream of the U.S. being a beacon of hope for the world is being tested as a total sham.

I share this as an optimist, a utopian. This miracle we’ve named humanity is just too big an opportunity to waste. We can do this. We can get civilization right.

Happy Friday. Happy solstice. Happy holidays.
Civic Engagement, Learning

The good news is that most Americans want to fix the problem of division, and most see the problem as fixable.

“Most people would rather vote for a uniter, not a divider. Nine out of 10 people said that they wanted someone in office who “actively works toward unifying the country and making it less divisive.” However, they feel that we’re not currently getting that. 43% of respondents said the presidential election is bringing out the worst in Americans. Only 6% of people said it was bringing out the best. 50% of respondents said it was bringing out the best and the worst.

“There is hope for our country. Most Americans want to fix the problem and do see the problem as fixable, as long as we have constructive conversations. Only one in 10 respondents said that Americans had too many disagreements on core values, implying that the rift is fixable if we come together.”

Article: Americans Agree On At Least One Thing In New Poll: It Stinks That We’re Divided 

Organizational health

Organizations need to enhance and expand development initiatives for assessing, educating and rewarding soft skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

“Soft skills, which are commonly defined as non-technical skills that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others, are vital to organizations and can impact culture, mindsets, leadership, attitudes and behaviors. These skills fall into the following categories:

  1. Advanced communication and negotiation skills
  2. Interpersonal skills and empathy
  3. Leadership and management skills
  4. Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking
  5. Adaptability and continuous learning skills
  6. Teaching and training skills

“A key difference among today’s large-scale skill shift and those in the past—including the transformative transition from agriculture to manufacturing—is the urgency for workers who exhibit these capabilities.”

Article: How to Develop Soft Skills

Branding, User Experience, Customer Experience

“The days of crafting brands without incorporating a CX design mindset are drawing to a close.”

This salient article makes an important point: a brand strategy is only that, a strategy, until it translates to a customer experience.

Article: Branding is Dead, CX Design is King

Advertising, Social Messaging

Ads that help donors to see the good that can be done rather than the misery of the underserved work better for long-term nonprofit brand growth.

“The UK generally pays a great deal more attention to charity advertising (and poverty porn) than we do in the US. In a recent post entitled “Can Charity Positive Charity Ads Have More Impact,” Will Goodhand, who specializes in researching the short- and long-term effects of advertising, looks at how that applies in the nonprofit sector.

“Goodhand’s project has tracked ads in the UK and US for the past two years, predicting ‘both short-term sales spikes and long-term brand building’ based on the ad content. He writes that nonprofits generally underperform when it comes to long-term growth, and sees a problem in ‘the historic use of shocking and upsetting imagery to break through consumer apathy in order to get that donation.'”

Animal Journalists, a 2018 campaign from the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, is humorous without a single shot of a distressed animal. 

Goodhand points to research that suggests that while emotional hooks do translate to short-term gain, more positive emotions work better to build long-term mind share.

Article: Ad Scholar to Charities: “Keep it Positive, You’ll Live Longer”
Article: Battersea Launches First Major Brand Campaign Introduces Peanut The Dog and Misty The Cat


Customer Acquisition and Customer Retention are not ‘either/or’ propositions.

“For years, conventional wisdom has said that customer retention is more profitable than acquisition. There are plenty of stats to back this claim:

  • Past customers have up to a 70% chance of converting again — compared to 20% for new prospects
  • Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can boost profits by up to 95%

Customer retention is between five to 25 times less expensive than trying to attract new users”With numbers like these, any business could be forgiven for slanting all of its marketing efforts toward retaining the customers it already has. After all, if new users are more expensive to find and harder to convert, why even go after them?”

In this quick but thorough article Kristen Gramigna shows why you need both and how to do it.

Article and Infographic: How to Balance Customer Acquisition Vs. Customer Retention

Cool Tools

“The average cost of textbooks has risen three times faster than the rate of inflation.”

“Creative Commons for Educators and Librarians is now published under CC BY. It’s available in print at the ALA store, or it can be downloaded from our website.”

Article: Our Book, “Creative Commons for Educators and Librarians,” Is Now Available

Personal development

Art is good for you.

“In a study by University College London, researchers found things like visiting museums, art galleries, and theaters were linked with a longer life. And further, it would seem the more art in your life, the better.”

Article: Want To Live Longer? New Research Says Get Involved In The Arts


Los Lobos was in New York last week. On Saturday night they played the New York Society for Ethical Culture. They’re touring their first ever Christmas album, Llegó Navidad, a collection of eleven traditional Latin holiday tunes and one original.

“’We’re not doing the typical ‘Silent Night’ and all that, which is fine,’ founding member Louie Pérez says in a promotional video, continuing, ‘I mean, I wouldn’t mind doing that in our own kind of way. But there is such a wealth of traditional songs, songs that have been around for a while from all over Latin America.’ The band explored more than 150 tunes before deciding what to record. Guitarist, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist David Hidalgo said that: ‘It took us a while to find the stuff we felt comfortable with’. The album includes such gems as ‘La Rama,’ ‘Reluciente Sol,’ ‘It’s Christmas Time in Texas,’ and ‘Christmas and You,’ bringing Los Lobos’ unique flair and flavor to foster a feliz navidad for everyone.”

Article: A Los Lobos Christmas

Image of the Week

The image of the week is of the annual Chikuraku Festival, held last month in Japan’s Taketa City.

“More of an event than an actual festival, Chikuraku is relatively modern with only 20 years of history. And it’s based not on ancient rites or rituals but on, well, economics. Roughly 70% of Taketa’s land is forested, and the city is a major producer of bamboo for furniture and other home goods. But about 50 years ago their demand for bamboo peaked, replaced by cheaper, plastic alternatives.

“Rather than let their bamboo forests fall into disrepair, the city came up with the idea of carrying on with their felling and using the bamboo in an annual lantern festival. It began with just 400 and has grown, gradually, to 20,000 bamboo lanterns.”

Article: 20,000 Bamboo Lanterns Illuminate the Chikuraku Festival

What’s Clarity First?

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 pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.

You can also read Clarity-First on the web.

Leave a Comment