Clarity First Newsletter,
July 12, 2019

“Innovation is combinatorial. It combines old things to make the new.” – Andreas Wagner

Clarity First

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

Here in the Pioneer Valley of Western Mass. we are peaking on perfect summer. The days are hot – high 80s/low 90s – and nights are cool – 50s and 60s. So we are keeping all of the windows open all of the time, which invites the songs of the birds, and insects, and the winds. Today I heard what I assume to be small mammals tussling in the garden, and then they were gone.

Every evening Debbie comes home from swimming in her corner of the Deerfield River. Every evening she regales me with stories of eagles who seem to own perches in specific trees, eagles who clearly have eyes on her, eagles that circle over her in surveillance.

We are alive, dear reader. Happy Friday. It is summer.


Systems Thinking, Biomimicry

Andreas Wagner suggests that human creativity is simply evolution at play, and that it is our ace in the hole.

Good news. Nature tends to figure things out, and we are nature. While the short-term forecast is for very stormy seas, natural history shows that human creativity is a big rudder.

“Both nature and the human mind are imaginative problem solvers. A moth’s wing color will darken over time to prevent visibility against smoke-stained bark. A single gene in a strand of DNA will somehow code for multiple different proteins at different times. A composer will shuffle and recombine musical phrases in search of the perfect melody for a sonata. As disparate as this trio seems, the moth, the gene, and the composer all use similar mechanisms of innovation in the service of survival and success.”

Book Review:  Life Finds a Way: What Evolution Teaches Us About Creativity


Learning, Community

Solving shared social and environmental issues demands collaboration, not divisiveness.

“To build more inclusive movements, social advocacy organizations and activists need to create stories that can engage both familiar and new communities.”

Article: How to Use Stories to Bring ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ Together


Diversity, Futures Thinking

Most ads don’t represent the diversity of our culture. But that is starting to change.

Gatorade’s Sisters in Sweat featuring Serena Williams  Credit: TBWA

“More and more household brands are successfully incorporating diversity into their ads. Gatorade’s Sisters in Sweat piece, for example, features Serena Williams speaking to her baby daughter. The ad does a beautiful job of being inclusive without checking off boxes. Rather than coming off as a way to lump together people of color, Sisters in Sweat feels authentic, empowering and emotional.”

Article: Advertisers Who Practice Diversity Have The Power To Change The World


Purpose, Mission, Values

Company purpose that matters.

“The vast majority of companies are doing little more than simply publishing a carefully crafted purpose statement. They do not have a strategy and a culture built around their purpose. When companies limit themselves to publishing a purpose statement, they fall short of the expectations of their employees and customers. More importantly, they miss out on making a meaningful impact on the world and capturing significant financial value for the company.”

Article: What Is Corporate Purpose? No, Let Me Rephrase That. What Is a Corporate Purpose Worth Having?



A tool to help you present a clear position

“Rhetoric is the ancient art of using language to persuade. If you use it well, your audience will easily understand what you’re saying, and will more likely be influenced by it.

“The three points on the Rhetorical Triangle relate directly to the three classic appeals you should consider when communicating.”

Article: The Rhetorical Triangle. Making Your Communications Credible and Engaging


Learning, Design Thinking

Oops. Design thinking is, at its core, a strategy to preserve and defend the status-quo — and an old strategy at that.

“When it comes to design thinking, the bloom is off the rose. Billed as a set of tools for innovation, design thinking has been enthusiastically and, to some extent, uncritically adopted by firms and universities alike as an approach for the development of innovative solutions to complex problems.  But skepticism about design thinking has now begun to seep out onto the pages of business magazines and educational publications.

Article: Design Thinking Is Fundamentally Conservative and Preserves the Status Quo


Learning, Design Thinking

“It is impossible to master design thinking by undertaking a five-day boot camp.”

A spread from the book 100 Ideas that Changed Design by Charlotte and Peter Fiell.

“Sometimes it feels like in our headlong rush to find innovative design solutions we have lost sight of what design thinking actually is and what its end goal should be. All too often design thinking is superficially applied as a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for problem solving, when in actuality it is a much deeper and more important exercise that invariably benefits from a rigorous knowledge of design theory.

“We believe it is only with a proper understanding of the big ideas that have shaped design over the millennia that design thinking can truly reach its full creative potential, and provide real, meaningful ways of looking at things differently and more intelligently.”

Article: We have lost sight of what design thinking actually is.





This week my friend Emily Davis sent me an email that included a reference: “I want to make sure you know about Haley Heynderickx, my most recent ladycrush. Her album ‘I Need To Start A Garden has been an anthem.”

Thank you Emily, this is perfect music for a quiet summer day. I particularly like the energy she shares with her band in the cut from last year’s Pickathon festival. She opens the song by saying “I love everyone on this stage”. They then show just what she means. They listen to each other attentively. Each member makes sensitive and adroit contributions to music that feels brand new and familiar at once.

Yeah. Listen to the quiet.



Image of the Week

The image in the header of this letter is of Montana’s Fort Peck Dam by Margaret Bourke-White.

The image of the week is titled Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, in 1942, by Marie Hansen. Both are included in the exhibition “Life: Six Women Photographers” at the New-York Historical Society through October 6.

Article: The Female Gaze Behind Life Magazine


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.

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