Clarity First Newsletter, May 11, 2018

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

Watching CNN or listening to NPR, or reading the Times or the Post, has taken on the quality of watching a car wreck. We know how it ends, but we are drawn to watch the carnage anyway. Humanity, it seems, is acting out its adolescent phase. It’s about now that we learn, or not, that “Oh, this game isn’t about me, it’s about us.”

But even as the waves of failing systems are collapsing under us, new waves of fresh insights and deeper understandings are emerging in their wake. We are, after all, a learning species. The only way we advance is by making mistakes, and then learning. This is why I keep this notebook. Worldwide, people are discovering what they care about, about new ways of working, learning, loving and living. From my spot in Greenfield, Mass., USA, these examples came across my laptop this week. And if this isn’t enough to make us smile, it’s spring. Happy Friday.

Creative Process

40 ways to nurture creativity in a cynical, risk-adverse world

Hugh MacLeod is a creative who has managed to build a great career without selling out. Mid-way through that career he jotted down some of his insights about creativity and turned them into a user-friendly advice guide. This is advice for all of us.
Book Review: Ignore Everybody, and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

Personal Productivity/Learning

Handwriting or typing, which is better?

It turns out that the pen and the keyboard are both great tools for different jobs. Handwriting is better for taking notes, but if you want to get ideas out of your head, use a keyboard. Bonus: Doodling is good for your recall of what you write. This is a really entertaining presentation.
Presentation: Clive Thompson “How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think”

Design Process

The metrics business stakeholders care about is regularly at odds with the metrics their customers care about.

Nathan Kinch notices that outdated business models, or metrics, are driving counter-productive design decisions. He thinks that rather than augment human capability, a lot of product and service design locks people in to old assumptions. So, he’s been searching for metrics that speak to both business stakeholders and the people they serve. He’s uncovered three that work better:
Value: Was the outcome achieved?
Meaning: How important is the outcome?
Engagement: How fun was the process?
Article: The New Business Metrics Your Customers Will Love

Group Process/Learning

Rather than aligning with actual competence, group decision making process habitually falls for messy proxies of expertise

Our minds take shortcuts when deciding who to listen to. For example, we all tend to give more credence to the opinions of tall people. The good news is that once we are aware of these shortcuts we can take steps to block them.
Article: Why Our Brains Fall for False Expertise, and How to Stop It


Peter Senge and Daniel Kim on why we need to “de-fragment” how we learn.

“One of the reasons for wide-spread institutional failure is that the knowledge-creating system, the method by which human beings collectively learn and by which society’s institutions improve and revitalize themselves, is deeply fragmented. This fragmentation has developed so gradually that few of us have noticed it; we take the disconnections between the branches of knowledge and between knowledge and practice as a given.” – Peter Senge, Daniel Kim
Article: From Fragmentation to Integration: Building Learning Communities


Graphic Design

365 days. 365 word marks.

Daniel Carlmatz is a designer based in Stockholm. Last year he gave himself a daily wordplay challenge. Yay for us, he did it. Bravo. Thank you.
Article: When a Word is The Story

New Economy

A blog on the vocabulary of inequality

Speaking of words, John Pat Leary notices that words “bind together ways of seeing culture and society.” Some words, he says, end up reframing reality and distracting us from what’s actually going on. To help us notice how, he publishes a blog that names words and phrases that take on new meanings when considered in the light of income inequality. His first entry is the word ‘innovation’:
“Other than mystifying creativity itself—which now looks more like an intuitive blast of inspiration, and less like work—‘innovation’ gives creativity a specific professional, class dimension. It is almost always applied to white-collar and profit-seeking activities, although its increasing popularity in educational contexts only reflects the creeping influence of market-based models in this field. Rare is the “innovative” carpenter, plumber, or homemaker, in spite of the imagination, improvisation, and managerial skills required of each.”
He’s even more brutal when talking about Brand/Branding/Rebrand.
Blog: Keywords for the Age of Austerity



It must be the string of 72 degrees-and-sunny days we’ve had here in the Northeast, but a good spring cleaning of the mind seems to be in order. Superorganism, a band that lives communally in London, is well suited to the job of shaking the dust out. These musicians are very smart, and they express it not with shoe-gazing seriousness, but a fun-loving swing. When was the last time you heard a song with a part for sloshing wash bucket, or bubbles blown through a straw?

This is good time music. But, while the music is really fun, the band’s expert chops, the childlike abandonment of every player, and the deadpan delivery of lead singer Orono Noguchi forge a deep keel that keeps the show safely off of the dreaded shoals of novelty songs. Take a smile break with this so-cool group by watching their Tiny Desk performance.


Images of the Week

What Goes On?, Tokyo-based artist Mark Drew’s latest show, opened last Saturday at Spoke NYC. His acrylic paintings mix Peanuts characters and rap lyrics from the 90s. Like old school hip hop, it’s brand new, and you’ve seen it a thousand times before. ”My art practice follows a pre-2000s hip hop approach, visually sampling and re-presenting these unrelated and personally nostalgic things as one…To paraphrase RUN-DMC: making something out of nothing, or expressing yourself with what you have readily available.” The show is hung until the 26th of this month.
Article: Mark Drew’s Hip Hop Peanuts

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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