Clarity First Newsletter, June 29, 2018

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

This week, when the hostility and fear mongering from Washington increased yet again, I found myself feeling very afraid. We in America are clearly experiencing our Germany circa 1933 moment. But then, as I do every year when she comes to town, I sat with Amma, the Hindu saint from India, with a thousand others. Her message is very simple: love, serve, and conserve. “Don’t be discouraged by your incapacity to dispel darkness from the world,” she says. “Light your little candle and step forward.”

She has created an international network of charitable organizations, collectively known as Embracing the World, that works in more than 40 countries in healthcare, disaster relief, hunger, housing, empowering women, and education for everyone. She reminds me, with personal and direct action, that Martin Luther King Jr. was right: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

She’s finishing her 2018 North America tour now. She’ll be in DC this coming Monday and Tuesday, in NYC July 4 – 6, and Toronto July 8 -11. Go get a hug from her. You’ll feel much better. I do. Thank you, Amma.

Organizational Culture

Flat structures, research shows, can create more functional teams.

“When you look at real organizations, having a clear hierarchy within your firm actually makes people turn on each other when they face an outside threat.”
Article: Rethinking Hierarchy in the Workplace


We have seen a rethink of the newspaper format.

“Print is now just one part of a multi-platform approach to reporting that includes video, social media and even VR and editors have had to question the newspaper’s role in a world where most of us consume news on a digital device.”
Article: The Changing World of Newspaper Design

Design Process

How KLM Royal Dutch Airlines kick starts its collective learning

“Each of these seven exercises has a specific role to play in the design process: warming up, building empathy, opening up new associations, and prioritizing ideas.”
Article: My 7 Favorite Creative Exercises

Socially Conscious Companies

Why climate change is a board-relevant issue, when climate change should fall within their mandate, and how they can oversee climate-related risks and opportunities.

“The impact of climate change on business is clear. Greenhouse gas emissions are warming the earth, and the temperature rise above 2 degrees celsius will have significant impacts on people and the planet. This poses market risks and opportunities to businesses. Company leadership, including corporate boards are trying to understand how to make their businesses resilient in the face of climate change impacts.”
Report: Getting Climate Smart: A Primer for Corporate Directors in a Changing Environment

Leadership Development

While nonprofits are strong in charity, they appear chronically anemic when it comes to investing in crucial leadership development.

“In one recent survey of nearly 1,200 nonprofit leaders, only 20% said they were very confident that they had the leadership abilities to enable their team to achieve its goals. Meanwhile, many were planning to leave their jobs. Almost 70% said would do so within the next five years. And only around 20% of the surveyed leaders had a formal succession plan for their own or other leadership positions”… “Few funders currently support nonprofit leadership development, but I believe that it would be well worth their money to do so. The nonprofit sector has the third-largest workforce in the U.S., behind retail and manufacturing, around 11.4 million jobs. These significant employers cannot succeed by instinct or good will, without leadership training, coaching, or mentoring.”
Article: Nonprofit Organizations are Suffering From a Leadership Gap.

Visual Identity

Keeping a fresh festival fresh

The first Flow Festival sprouted at a defunct power plant in Helsinki, in 2004. In 2011 hometown-based studio Tsto designed a typographic identity that has since become synonymous with the festival. This year they’re back, and they’ve added to the original typeface and added a new graphic palette.

“For the Flow typeface, we added more alternative characters in the original hand-drawn style.”

The studio also added a “bigger gesture”, extending the font to not only include lettering but a set of symbols “free of literal meaning.”

“At Tsto we are often drawn to the typography and character systems of languages foreign to us, not for their exoticness, but how the characters create their own typographic colour.”

In a day and age when the ROI of a strong and clear visual identity is too often measured by bean counters alone, it’s nice to step back to celebrate the strength and power of an integrated ID system that can only be called ‘immeasurable’.
Article: Tsto Returns to Design Flow Festival’s Identity, Pushing and Playing with its Typography



“When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people.” – John Coltrane.

Many recognize John Coltrane for his contributions to the lexicon of jazz. He was there at the birth of be-bop. His timeless duets with Miles Davis are on countless “Music for a Sunday Morning” playlists. His rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “My Favorite Things” introduced many in the west to the modal scales of Indian music. Others think of the free jazz he premiered at the Newport Jazz Festival in the summer of 1965, about which drummer Elvin Jones said “Only poets can understand it”. But many think of him, first and foremost, as a spiritual leader.

To get your head around this perspective, start with the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco. They cite as their mission a quote from the man that they call a saint: “Once you become aware of this force for unity in life, you can’t ever forget it.” On the first Sunday of every month they celebrate a Love Supreme Meditation. “Come calm the mind and tune into the spirit as you are guided through a meditation on the testimony and music of Saint John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Great for old time Coltrane lovers and new listeners as well. Join us and experience the power of this anointed sound…the music and wisdom of Saint John Coltrane.”

If you’re still feeling a little wtf, watch Chasing Trane on Netflix. It’s a wonderfully sensitive celebration of a powerfully beautiful man’s life. After watching it I revisited his catalog with a newfound understanding, respect and appreciation. 


Image of the Week

The image of the week is called I’m the President, Baby, by artist and filmmaker Miranda July. It’s a still from a new work commissioned for The Future Starts Here at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She uses monitoring and server technology to observe the daily life of a guy she met as an Uber driver. Oumarou Idrissa, founder of the nonprofit Afrikicks, and naturalized American citizen from Niger, “picked her up in an Uber Black SUV when she was on her way to interview Rihanna in Malibu. Over the following years they kept up a relationship in sporadic text messages, and for about seven months, following the death of Idrissa’s mother, they shared a small house in Los Angeles that July rented as an office. They occupied it for alternating shifts: morning to evening for July and evening to morning for Idrissa.

“Idrissa came to the United States on a student visa, which expired and left him undocumented. For years, afraid of deportation, he would wake up every few hours, expecting immigration agents at his door. He eventually became a citizen, and because they shared an address, Idrissa and July went together to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Idrissa cast his first presidential vote, for Hillary Clinton, and when Donald Trump won, he wrote on Instagram, ‘The way I feel last nite was the worst feeling I ever have in my life.’ ”
Article: Miranda July’s Latest Work is a High-Tech Portrait of the Uber driver Who Took Her to Interview Rihanna

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by Mitch Anthony. I help mission-driven companies use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as powerful tools for transformation. Learn more.

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