Clarity First Newsletter, January 19, 2018

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

“We could have been anything we wanted, yet our free-floating individualism has taken us far from community, contribution, or connection, the very things that truly give life meaning and purpose.”

– Margaret J. Wheatley, Who Do We Choose to Be?
Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity
The length, breadth and height of a complete life and business

Sixty-four years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his first sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He spoke of “the three dimensions of a complete life,” a life’s length, breadth and height. This week, in honor of MLK’s birthday, Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder of B Lab, described how King’s legacy inspires and informs the work of the B Corpcommunity.

Image by Jeronimo Bernot on Unsplash

“Let’s all honor Dr. King by committing to work for and buy from and invest in businesses that are creating quality jobs with dignity — jobs that enable people to take care of themselves and their families; to grow as individuals and to be in right relationship with others; and to make a meaningful contribution to their community and the world.”
Article: MLK’s Triple-Bottom Line

To compete at the speed of digital, McKinsey says we need to unleash our strategy, our structure, and our people.

“Across industries, barely half of the top performers sustain their leadership position over the course of a decade…As a result, companies are beginning to experiment with increasingly radical approaches. We’re struck by a commonality among those who get it right: they create adaptive, fast-moving organizations that can respond quickly and flexibly to new opportunities and challenges as they arise.” Big takeaway: we need to shift to an emergent strategy. Comment: this is not just about the speed of digital. This is about how we realize our potential as humans.
Article: Organizing for the Age of Urgency

I Heart New York logo, Milton Glaser, 1977

“How you live changes your brain.”

Since co-founding Push Pin Studios in 1954, Milton Glaser has learned what it means to be a very successful designer of life and of business. In 2001 he summarized some of what he knows in a talk to the AIGA in London. In the calm, wry, and confident voice that an elder earns, he explains why it is that you can only work with clients you like, why not to trust style and why doubt is central to good solutions.
PDF: Ten Things I Have Learned

Most consumers want brands to weigh in on social and political issues.

“The reality is staying silent, for some brands and for some instances, is not an option. To say nothing is worse than saying something and re-establishing your values.”
Article: Majority of Consumers Want Brands to Take a Stand on Social and Political Issues, According to New Study

From boundless curiosity to sensemaking

Stowe Boyd calls himself a “futurist, researcher, critic, and imperfectionist”. He explores the “critical themes underlying our understanding of work.” Recently he re-posted his list of skills that he thinks today’s and tomorrow’s leaders need in order to respond to a rapidly changing environment.
Article: 10 Work Skills for the Postnormal Era

People don’t read body copy.

Regular readers have heard me say it, and say it again: People don’t read body copy, but they do read heads, subheads and captions. Tell your story with these elements and you’re more likely it will be read and understood. Here’s some new research that backs me up.
Article: How People Read Short Articles Online

Avoid testing the solution before developing a good understanding of the customer “problem” first.

Your customer’s perception of you and your offer is a priceless asset. Don’t dilute its value by putting too much focus on your solution before first understanding and testing the customer “problem”, i.e. customer jobs, pains, and gains.
Article: “Problem” vs Solution In Customer Interviews


Giant Sand, fronted by Howe Gelb, is a band that has produced a catalog so deep and wide that I’m pretty sure I’ll never tire of it. Active between 1985 and 2015, they’ve been the best jazz quartet you’ve never heard, the best Americana band you have, and makers of the perfect mood music for those quiet times. More than 20 musicians have called the band home, each contributing their own distinct mark. Here’s a recent incarnation of the band on their last (should I say “most recent?”) reunion tour in 2015, recorded live at Pickethon. This song features Ilse DeLange of the Common Linnets, singing her own Calm After the Storm. And here’s a different formation of the band recorded live in Denmark in 2008, playing Increment of Love. Gelb reminds me of guitarist Bill Frisell. He’ll try anything, in any genre, and he always pulls it off.

Howe Gelb performing songs from a 2017 release, Future Standards, live in the studios of KEXP.

Images of the week

The images of the week are two of 11,000 drawings that artist Janne Willems has collected from people in 30 countries that show moments they remember and treasure. She goes up to strangers, hands them a blank postcard, and asks them to draw her a beautiful moment from their past week. Their moment doesn’t need to be pretty or perfect, Willems says; “it doesn’t even need to be happy — it just has to be ‘beautiful,’ whatever that word means to them.” The larger of the two is a drawing of an Austrian woman’s “unwedding”. “We were together for 19 years. We made a ritual to mark our separation. We came together in a garden and said our thanks for being together. We released boats in the water; on them, we wrote what we want to let go of and what we want to hold onto.”
Article/Ted Talk: A Sweet Look at Some of the Small Things That Make Our Lives Beautiful

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by Mitch Anthony, and 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. Regarding “People don’t read body copy,” I’ve often surmised that most studies don’t separate reading situations and goals. For example, if one is reading to see if the page is relevant, quick scanning happens, whereas the usability guru Jakob Nielsen states, “If you want people who really need a solution, focus on comprehensive coverage. This is a good strategy if you sell highly targeted solutions to complicated problems” ( By far the greatest percentage of reading situations are not what Nielsen describes in that quote, and almost all studies I’ve read don’t focus on that important, pre-conversion situation. Think of it, if you’re about to choose a project management or marketing management software that you’ll use for months or years, or if you’re about to choose a lawyer for important work, or if you’re merely about to choose a new string-trimmer for more than $200, wouldn’t you read most of the relevant page? My firm’s SEO Writing Guide advises, “Don’t require people to call, or, worse, click to another website in order to find a piece of information needed to finish a purchase decision. Clicking to a page of more information within your website is OK and often best, depending on how much information is needed to complete a purchase decision.” Within the next month, a partner on my firm will be researching and blogging on this topic, and I’ll summarize here. In addition to usability studies, I bet makers of software that tracks extent of scrolling in pages, or any firm that sets up GA to do that, has shared valuable data. Meanwhile, I’d be grateful for any links and thoughts on this crucial topic.

    • Mitch Anthony says

      Rob, I really appreciate your erudite and informed perspective. In my experience, yes, the person who is going to make a buying decision will read, or at least scan, most of the body copy. But first s/he has to be assured that it is relevant, and the only way s/he can be assured of that is scan heads and subheads first. I look forward to your epistles on this essentially important science.

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