Clarity First Newsletter, May 31, 2019

“Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.”

– Blaise Pascal

Clarity First

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

This week I spent a lot of time working with partners to harness a really big idea we share. Wow. Pascal was so right. Big ideas are relatively easy. Bringing them down to earth and realizing them is where the real intelligence is needed.

Even though it is only 2:00 in the afternoon here in the eastern U.S., here’s a toast to the Eagle. A toast to the ability to see the big picture, and to do what needs to be done next.

Happy Friday, dear reader. I hope that your challenges are as juicy and rewarding as mine.



As of tomorrow, Glenwood Springs, CO will be the seventh U.S. city to run on 100 percent renewable electricity.

“Like many cities around the world, Glenwood Springs, Colorado has set a goal to run on renewable energy. But instead of picking a date a year or two ahead, they’re going renewable now.”

Article: Glenwood Springs, Colorado Set to Run on 100 Percent Renewable Energy


Sustainable Disruption

We are at a crossroads. If we are to address climate change, let alone our broader sustainability challenges, we need significantly disruptive innovation across a wide number of sectors.

“Will we be able to energize our innovation ecosystem to create the disruptive, sustainable technologies we need? Will we create the conditions under which sustainable innovations can flourish?

“Our book is about how we may collectively catalyze business and markets to innovate sustainable technologies. We adopt a systems perspective, arguing that social sector leaders of all types—nonprofit leaders, policymakers, academics, business leaders, entrepreneurs—all play a role. There is no simply solution. Thus, this book is for everyone. We discuss how the innovation system works and provide specific suggestions on the levers available to each stakeholder to drive sustainable innovation.”

Article: An excerpt from Can Business Save the Earth?: Innovating Our Way to Sustainability


Corporate Responsibility, Advertising

As governments shirk their responsibility the role of business in addressing climate change is even more important.

Volvo’s children’s book, ‘The Day the Ocean Went Away’.

“The ad industry has a responsibility to educate consumers on climate change but must avoid ‘greenwashing’ people or risk damaging their reputation for good.”

Article: Erin Lyons: It’s Time for the Ad Industry to Address Climate Change


Listening, Research

There’s much to learn from stakeholders. You just have to be willing to listen and take notes.

Adam Ford is a user experience designer, so this article is slanted toward product design. But it’s relevant to designers of anything, including brands and services.

“Stakeholder interviews are one-on-one conversations with people who have a vested interest in the success of the product you’re working on…”

“You’ll be surprised at just how differently each stakeholder interacts with the product. Analyzing these perspectives will help you better understand what stakeholders want and need from the product.

“Once you collect this information, you will be better equipped to deliver a great design that ticks all the boxes.”

Article: The Ultimate Guide to Stakeholder Interviews



What separates a good leader from a so-so one? The most effective leaders are coaches.

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Researcher, professor and organizational consultant, Julia Milner, says that the most effective leaders are coaches — people who can guide others to arrive at their own solutions, put them into action, and set goals.

In her TEDxLiege talk she says that “Instead of teaching people, you’re helping them to arrive at their own solution.” The good news is that she also says that anyone can learn how to be a coach.

Article: How Do Good Leaders Give Advice? The Short Answer: They Don’t.



The critical role of play in learning

John Spencer is concerned that schools are cutting free play time from their lesson plans. “We tend to view recess as a break from learning,” he says. “However, free play is actually a vital part of the learning process. Play boosts divergent thinking, flexible thinking, and creativity. It helps students learn critical social-emotional skills.”

As someone who x-c skied 73 times this winter, and worked 50 hours a week at the same time, I think his point is relevant to the workplace too. Over the past winter I solved a lot of problems in the hills of Vermont. He suggests that educators incorporate play-based brain breaks in the classroom, integrate game-based learning and simulations, and pilot hands-on maker projects. This sounds like the recipe for a delightful leadership retreat to me.

Article: The Case for More Recess



How to get people to look. Recreate the Simpson’s living room with your products.

“IKEA sifted through thousands of products in their catalogs to create their ‘real life series,’ proving once and for all that art imitates life and life imitates art and the circle continues viciously until you realize: you are online, shopping for real things, based on a render, based on a TV show, which will arrive in a couple days for you to sit on, while you rewatch that TV show. IKEA’s tagline smirks ironically in the top right corner of each of these recreations: ‘for real families.’”

Article: IKEA Recreates The Simpsons, Friends, and Stranger Things Houses With its Own Furniture


Jimmy Vaughn said that without Lightnin Hopkins there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Vaughn or Texas Blues. Listen to this late career session and you’re likely to conclude that without this master musician there would have been no Stones, Led Zeppelin, hip-hop or trip-hop either. Even Miles learned from this guy.

The opening credits claim that this is a tape of “possibly the finest blues musician, ever, possibly the best example of the blues ever played”. Best is a big word. But Sam “Lightin” Hopkins is a giant who wears the moniker really well.

Video: Possibly the Best Blues Performance Ever.  


Image of the Week

The image in the header of this letter is one of the Calder-Inspired Animated Gif Mobiles by Jimmy Simpson.
The image of the week is one of “an ongoing series of digital mobiles by Philadelphia-born, Brooklyn-based illustrator and animation director Jimmy Simpson. Inspired by Alexander Calder, each mobile begins as a loose line drawing and is then translated into 3D software to create a dimensional image.”

Article: Calder-Inspired Animated Gif Mobiles by Jimmy Simpson


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