Clarity First Newsletter, February 8, 2019


Clarity First

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

This week I spent two days supporting a company’s leadership team while they asked some burning questions. They had the insight to find an Airbnb that was both close to a major airport, and right on an urban beach. They had the insight to order in a load of groceries so that we could prepare and share meals together. For most of the time our conference room was a dining room table with a view of the ocean. I feel confident saying that everyone in that circle felt supported in expressing their true selves in the context of their shared work. The next day the CEO wrote me and said “We are the lucky ones, no?”. Yes, we who get to discover and share our best selves in the context of our work are the luckiest people in the world. Let’s keep going until everyone can.


Group Process, Organizational Culture, Advertising
I don’t care about football, but I do care about how the Patriots are the Patriots. And I love smart advertising.

Last Sunday evening, Super Bowl Sunday, Debbie and I were driving home from VT after xc-skiing, as we do every Sunday in the winter. The roads, typically crowded with plates from CT, NY and NJ on Sundays at that time, were as empty as one would imagine they would be after a nuclear holocaust. She said: “Do you know who the Patriots are playing”? “No.” “Do you know where they’re playing?” “No.” The next morning she was up first. When I came downstairs she looked up from her laptop and said: “They played LA, in Atlanta. They won.”
But our indolence about the Super Bowl doesn’t mean that I’m not impressed with the Patriots’ team work. We all have a lot to learn from any group of people who have learned to think and act like a team. And the Burger King Andy Warhol ad was great.
Article: The New England Patriots: The Mastery Of Teamwork In A Climate Of Constant Change


Group Process, Organizational Health
Working with human nature instead of against it

Mechanical systems are closed, human systems are open. Yet today feedback is used to correct and adjust both systems. Carol Stanford observes that this is a dangerous and irresponsible practice. She goes so far as to name it as one of our “Toxic Practices”. In this 6-part series she outlines why, and she suggests “a new set of operating processes based on paradigms or premises true to human nature.” She explains why feedback undermines employee development, the negative impact that feedback has on core human capabilities, and the clear alternative that leads to “self-regulating employees”.
Article: Why Feedback Is Irresponsible and What To Do Instead: Part One


Corporate Responsibility, Corporate Activism
A body of research makes clear that consumers like it when brands take a political stand.

“And where exactly does a company that’s been sewing blue jeans for the past 146 years find the authority to give anyone a lesson in the affairs of state? To hear CMO Jennifer Sey tell it, Levi’s is better positioned than most brands to do just that.

“‘Levi’s has been a symbol of democracy and inclusion for just about forever,’ Sey said, explaining that a pair of blue jeans ‘is the ultimate form of self-expression.’”
Article: Levi’s CMO Explains Why It’s Worth Taking the Risk to Be Political


Branding, Marketing
The celebrity endorsement, the spurious feature, the fancy packaging, and the proliferating product line offering empty choice are all symptoms of segmentation gone slothful.

“Done well, market segmentation can do so much. It can uncover entirely new markets (see Blue Ocean Strategy), provide new ways of serving existing markets and rejuvenate entire categories and industries (remember Swatch watches?), out-maneuver competitors (Nike segments the market into very small niches so competitors are contained), and offer segment developers first-rights to the new market (The Walkman had a 50% market share at a 20% price premium for a couple of decades).

“Sure, competitors catch up more quickly today than ever before – no brand has a free run forever, or even for very long. But since new product and idea adoption rates are quicker than ever, first-movers make a splash early, and move on with bulging pockets. Segmentation is still a winning game. The incentive to score is still huge. Segmentation spurs innovation.

“But segmentation also offers marketers a cop out: it allows firms to find easy prey. And the easy prey consist of the rich, the lazy, the busy, the ignorant, and the vain.”
Article: Segmentation Reveals Marketing’s Easiest Targets


Customer Experience, UX
Don’t just try to make your customers feel good; strive to make them feel good about themselves.

“As a customer service consultant, I get more requests from CEOs who want their organization transformed into, say, ‘the Ritz-Carlton of banking’ or ‘the Four Seasons of heavy construction’ than I get requests that run the other direction: hotels looking to become ‘the CitiBank of beachside resorts’ or ‘the Walmart of boutique hotels.’  This isn’t a slight of CitiBank or of Walmart. But it does point to the truth that I want to talk about today: the understanding many of us instinctively have that a sense of hospitality equates with and leads to the highest level of customer service.”
Article: Is Hospitality The Missing Element In Your Customer Service Culture?


Personal Development
To tame your anger, it may help to take time to observe and name it.

There is now clear evidence that anger isn’t one emotion but rather a whole family of emotions. And learning to identify different members of the family is a powerful tool for regulating your anger. Psychologists refer to the practice as learning to improve your “emotional granularity”.

“…In many ways, anger is like wine. There are these major varieties — such as chardonnay and pinot noir — but each vintage has its own unique combination of aromas, flavors and potency. The more practice you have at detecting — and naming — these nuances, the better you understand wine.

“And if you learn to detect all the various flavors and nuances of anger and label them, you can start to handle your anger better…”.
Article: Angry?! How Naming and Understanding the Different Kinds of Anger Can Help 


New Economy, Inequality
One very important determinant of parents’ child-raising strategies is the level of inequality in a given society.

“In a nutshell, we think that economic conditions have a lot of influence on the way parents raise their children. So, in the United States, compared to the 1960s and 1970s, the number of hours parents spend supervising the activities of their children has increased dramatically. This trend is especially strong in countries where economic inequality has grown the most, and in general that’s where we see more of what’s become known as ‘helicopter parenting.’

“Why is this so? Well, parents want their children to do well in life, to be successful. And in a society that is very unequal—where there are lots of opportunities if one does well and very negative outcomes if one is less successful—parents will be more worried that their children won’t become high achievers in school. But if you go to a country where there is less inequality, parents may be less worried about that, not because they care less about their children, but because the negative outcomes aren’t as bad. There are some other things they care about—maybe to see their children happy and to let them express their individuality. And those things can get sacrificed when there is pressure on them to be high achievers.”
Article: Why Swedes Are Chiller Parents Than Americans



“Months before the fall of Harvey Weinstein catapulted the #MeToo movement into the mainstream, a song called ‘Quiet’ caught fire overnight, becoming a global anthem for victims of sexual harassment and abuse — almost as though women were waiting the words to help them share their collective rage: ‘I can’t keep quiet for anyone anymore.’

“Connie Lim, who performs as MILCK, originally co-wrote ‘Quiet’ in 2015. She says she always viewed it as her ‘personal therapy song,’ to help her cope with having been sexually assaulted and abused when she was a teenager. Then came the 2016 presidential election.

“‘The rhetoric that was used to describe women really enraged me, and just kind of brought me back to those feelings of when I was younger,’ Lim says. ‘I was told I needed to ‘sit properly,’ and I need to ‘speak less’ and ‘smile more’ and ‘lose weight’ and just be this perfect little girl.’

“Compelled to share ‘Quiet” with the world, she channeled her rage into an idea: Teach the song to other singers and perform it at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

“Lim lives in Los Angeles, so about a month before the march she put out a call to female a cappella singers in D.C. Two groups responded: Capital Blend, a professional ensemble, and the GW Sirens, a college group. After lots of emailing and Skyping to learn the song and some-in person rehearsing the day before, they put on their winter coats and pink hats and headed to the march.

“‘We had no idea how crowded it was going to be,’ Lim says, laughing.”  Then others noticed, too.

Hundreds of Choir! Choir! Choir! singers from Toronto joined MILCK to perform “Quiet” at that city’s Phoenix Concert Theatre in early 2017. Andrew Williamson/Courtesy of Choir! Choir! Choir!

Get up. Stand up.
Video: MILCK + Choir! of 1300 Can’t Keep Quiet!
Article: A Song Called ‘Quiet’ Struck A Chord With Women. Two Years Later, It’s Still Ringing


Image of the Week

The Image of the Week is titled “EPOCHS – American Idol”, by Frank Buffalo Hyde. The painting “depicts a Native drum circle in front of the logo for the singing competition show American Idol. The otherwise empty background and thin, dispersed lines of blue paint emphasize the artificial, even dreamlike quality of the scene, as if it were a memory caught in the midst of recollection.

“Buffalo Hyde is a Native artist — Onondaga and Nez Perce to be specific — and he lives in Santa Fe. His work has been classified as contemporary Native art, in opposition to what are typically considered traditional Native artforms, such as pottery, blankets, beads, and jewelry. However, for Buffalo Hyde, the dichotomy between contemporary and traditional is trite and tired. He supports all forms of Native art, and the only classification that matters to him is whether or not it represents the Native experience from a Native perspective.”
Article: Project Indigene and Speaking the Hard Truths of Colonialism


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 tool of 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