Clarity First Newsletter, May 24, 2019


Clarity First

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

This week spring came, for a day or two. It’s still cold at night, and daytime temps are erratic and atypical. But this week Debbie and I opened all of the windows in the house for the first time since fall. And more than once we experienced my favorite weather state: 72 and sunny.

This letter, which turned out to be about values and purpose, was scooped from the idea fountain on those freshly scrubbed days.

Happy Friday, dear reader. Happy spring.


Corporate Responsibility, Purpose, Mission, Vision
It’s corporate overreach that has led to nationalist, populist, and anti-globalist movements.

Jean-Dominique Senard, the departing CEO of Michelin and incoming chair of Renault and of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi alliance, suggests that the prevailing concept of corporate purpose needs an update. Image via Michelin

Jean-Dominique Senard believes that companies need to change how they define their raison d’être. “Responsible capitalism, as he sees it, is a necessary remedy for the kind of corporate overreach that has led to nationalist, populist, and anti-globalist movements. Without a more earnest effort by major companies and investors to broaden prosperity and quality of life, Senard warns, there will be more backlash against free enterprise, more authoritarian governments, more arbitrary regulation of companies and markets, and ever more stringent restrictions on free trade.”

Article: Rolling Toward Responsible Capitalism


Gender Inequity, Next Economy
Everyone stands to gain if women are paid fairly and wealth is distributed more equitably.

“Not doing so means even rich people are losing out.”

Article: Gender Inequity Costs the United States $2 Trillion in Lost GDP


Circular Economy, Next Economy
Nike walks the talk of circular design, and models collaborative behavior, too.

“Nike has created an open source design guide to help businesses reach their sustainability goals. The guide maps out the 10 principles of circular design to help the industry codify and standardize sustainability in the supply chain.”

One of their primary strategies is to hold up great examples, no matter who did them. The first guide “features videos and case studies from other brands including Levi’s and Fjallraven.”

Business needs a planet to operate on. We, the humans, need to to learn work together to share this planet with all earthly life. This beautiful work of design thinking reminds me that Nike gets this, or sincerely wants to try.

Article: Nike Creates Circular Design Guide to Promote Sustainable Collaboration


Purpose, Mission, Vision
Asking whether purpose will increase market share is the wrong question.

“Brands all have a deep-seated vision, which marketers should dust off and use to inspire their approach to innovating for, and engaging with, consumers.”

Article: Vision and purpose should stand above commercial considerations


Learning,  Change and Transition
In 1950s California, publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti took on the censors – and won.

“In The People v Ferlinghetti: The Fight to Publish Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’, Ronald Collins and David Skover take us to the 1950s, and a California on the verge of social change. At the heart of their uplifting story is the business acumen and literary idealism of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.”

Article: The Fight to Publish Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’


Brand strategy as business strategy

Regular readers know that one of the Clarity mantras is ‘branding is not just for marketing anymore’. So, this week we were pleased to notice Thomas Gad making the same discovery. In a blog post he said:

“I now promote the idea that the brand strategy comes first, and the business strategy or plan, including goals of performance and the business model, comes second. The reason for this change is that, in my practice and experience, I have seen too many businesses fail. Not because they haven’t been able to come up with a very good business model and strategy for making money, but because they haven’t been attentive enough to customer needs and customer perception.”

Go, Tom. Go.

Article: Brand Strategy Before Business Strategy


Personal Development
Maybe work life balance is the wrong metaphor. What about aiming for work life harmony instead?

Leon Ho, the founder & CEO of the blog Lifehack, has been thinking. What if we could learn to integrate work into our life in a way that feels more complete? “This way, you don’t need to view work and having personal time as separate.”

Article: Ditch Work Life Balance and Embrace Work Life Harmony



Credit: Library of Congress, MediaPunch Inc/Alamy Stock Photo, MTV, Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo, Baiba Šomase/Alamy Stock Photo

Last month, the PRI radio show Studio 360, assembled a fascinating story about an American folk song.

“It’s an old folk murder ballad of unknown origins that goes by many names, including “In the Pines,” “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and “Black Girl.” But it’s also a song that has touched and influenced generations of musicians, from folk and country to blues and rock, to grunge and roots.

“When Kurt Cobain and Nirvana played it on their “MTV Unplugged” special in November 1993, they introduced the old song to an entirely new audience who had probably never heard it before.”

“Today, there are more than 200 variations of the song sung over the better part of a century.” With the help of academics like Eric Weisbard and Elizabeth DiSavino, and musicians like Bill Callahan and Fantastic Negrito, they explore “the long, rich musical and social history of this great old American song — before, and after, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana took a turn at making it theirs.”

Article/Link to Show: The haunting power of ‘In the Pines’

Listen to a playlist of just some of the versions of “In the Pines”:


Image of the Week

The image of the week is of Pamela Diaz, shot by Carla Javier.  She is a graduating senior from Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School, in South LA. She helped geometric abstract painter Rob Hill paint the mural on the school basketball court behind her.

She did it a couple of weeks ago when her school was transformed into “a veritable outdoor art gallery, featuring dozens of murals by more than two dozen local and international artists, including Shepard Fairey, Faith XLVIIAxel Void, and 1010. ” Students were invited to be apprentices. priming surfaces and filling-in sections at the direction of the artists.

The artists were brought to the campus by the Dr. Maya Angelou Mural Festival.

Article: A Bunch of Artists Just Turned This South LA High School Into An Outdoor Mural Gallery

Brushwork stands in front of his piece “Homegrown,” a mural inspired by his family and the community. “My mom had over 400 plants in the backyard and she often spoke to them. I realized that like a plant, a community needs water, attention, and love in order to grow. In this mural, my home is transported into a planter pot, symbolizing the growth that I have gone through as a young man and working artist in this community.” (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)


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