Clarity First Newsletter,
November 15, 2019

“Businesses operate from a number of paradigms. Those that are hard-nosed and finance-driven are counterproductive in a world of rapid change and deep interdependence because they chip away at the most important asset of the organization – the human community.”
—Jane E. Dutton

Clarity First

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

Greetings from Portland, OR, the friendliest city I know. While the traffic is terrible here, drivers are courteous and respectful, which relives some of the sting of stop and go travel. And I’m getting to spend a few days with my son, Devan.

This week I convened a second group of Timber Framers Guild members and guests to guide them through my new workshop, Telling Your Story. We gathered at the Rose Hotel, a cool and very comfortable hotel right in Portland’s downtown. We created a powerful learning field together, a field strengthened by the participants’ willingness to share honestly and to listen with an open heart. Wow. The power of the circle is unmistakeable. I recommend it for everyone.

Happy Friday.

Civic Engagement

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

Former NFL fullback and EcoAthlete Ovie Mughelli and the improv comedy group Dad’s Garage participated in a Big Screen Bloc Party in Atlanta, GA. Photo courtesy of Exposure Labs

“It’s clear that public discourse in the United States today is dominated by extremes, whether we’re talking about climate change or refugee policy. Many different factors are contributing to the sense that society is becoming ever-more divided, but solving the important social and environmental issues we face nevertheless demands collaboration and unity.

“To make progress in this context, and break down the prevailing “us” versus “them” narrative, social change organizations must find ways to both better engage existing supporters and reach new communities “beyond the choir.” And to achieve that, they must be mindful of how the stories they tell may serve or stand in the way of this effort.”

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

Persuasion, Communication

You can’t reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into.

“Reason is easy. Being clever is easy. Humiliating someone in the wrong is easy too. But putting yourself in their shoes, kindly nudging them to where they need to be, understanding that they have emotional and irrational beliefs just like you have emotional and irrational beliefs—that’s all much harder. So is not writing off other people. So is spending time working on the plank in your own eye than the splinter in theirs. We know we wouldn’t respond to someone talking to us that way, but we seem to think it’s okay to do it to other people.”

Article: It’s Not Enough to Be Right—You Also Have to Be Kind


Grit does not predict creativity, but visible passion does.

Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Ph.D. is a research scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She studies emotions in creativity, as well as how to teach creativity skills through the arts. She says that “people usually ask how creative individuals get their ideas. But, a better question might be: how do creative individuals realize their ideas? Are creative individuals unusually gritty and just stick with it, no matter what? It turns out they are not.”

She’s identified three understandings that all creative people share. The first one is that there is no formula for success, that creativity doesn’t work in regular, predictable steps. The step that matters the most is to just start.

Article: The How of Creativity

Brand Promise, Inclusion

Sephora CMO Deborah Yeh on how the beauty retailer is walking the walk when it comes to diversity

Deborah Yeh discussing the company’s commitment to inclusion at Brandweek.  Sean T. Smith for Adweek

This past April R&B artist SZA tweeted that an employee at a Sephora store called security on her after suspecting her of shoplifting. The company sprang into high gear, doubling down on the company’s brand promise of opening up the world of beauty to all.

“Changes have come swiftly since then: Sephora is educating staff on 10 key points regarding issues like diversity and customer safety. Customer experiences are being tweaked and redesigned to better suit all clients, including technological innovations for matching foundations to skin color.”

“For now, Sephora is putting diversity at the forefront of its marketing efforts. Yeh said that exhibiting diversity in its messaging is a major priority for the brand, with a recent campaign spotlighting LGBTQ+ people (both in front of the camera and on the production side), which was one of the biggest media investments the brand has made during Yeh’s 7-year tenure.”

Article: With Inclusivity as Its Focus, Sephora Doesn’t Do One-Size-Fits-All Marketing

Brand Communications

Brands are sidestepping the constructs of conventional media and are evolving into cross-platform content creators.












Mailchimp Presents is an original series of films and podcasts aimed at entrepreneurs and small-business owners and their shared struggles.

“As content consumption adapts to the digital age, brand touch points and media formats are diversifying. Print publications were among the first of the old guard to feel the effects; now, mainstream media is hustling to keep up, pivoting to a new community-based consumption model.

“Traditional channels are merging and morphing, with online platforms such as Refinery29 branching out into experiences with its 29Rooms immersive exhibit; print titles like Glamour developing into entertainment brands with bespoke video content and podcasts; media conglomerates such as Condé Nast expanding into creative agencies and consultancies with in-house studio CNX; and luxury retailers like shifting to content creation and curation with live-streamed in-studio talks. Even the prestigious cornerstone of culture New York Times is crossing channels, with a television adaptation of its popular column “Modern Love”—which has already found success as a podcast—airing on Amazon in October 2019.”

Article: New Brand Narratives

Design, UX

Before the home page, there was the front page. Newspapers teach us much about the foundations of web design.

The Gutenberg diagram, Steven Bradley

Article: What Newspapers Can Teach Us About Web Design


Subway security guard crafts beautiful wayfaring signage from duct tape.

“The immense and sprawling Tokyo subway system seems to be permanently under construction. It’s good to see a metropolis investing in what is already an excellent public transportation infrastructure system but for heavy users it can be frustrating to find your path blocked by temporary walls and detours.

“But several years ago, straphangers began noticing elegant typography crafted from duct tape, directing passengers to station exits and platforms.

“The beautiful duct tape signage turned out to be the work of Shuetsu Sato, a station security guard who began working in Shinjuku Station, the busiest station in the world, in 2002. In an interview, Sato explains that he was initially given a megaphone to direct crowds. However, he found it to be an ineffective tool that was ignored by most. So with a few rolls of duct tape and a craft knife he took it upon himself to create some eye-catching signage.

“Over the years, a cultish appreciation has grown for Shuetsu Sato’s work with fans dubbing his typography as Shuetsu-tai (Shuetsu font). Fashion brands like United Arrows and WEGO have even commissioned the security guard to create custom typography for them.”

Article: Tokyo Subway Duct Tape Signage by Shuetsu Sato


Andrew Bird has released a holiday record. Say no more. It’s available now to stream everywhere.   

Image of the week

The image of the week, by Wayne Lawrence for The New York Times, is of Sammi Ross, rehearsing in costume for the re-enactment of the 1811 Slave Rebellion that was staged last weekend by artist Dread Scott.

The staging was “a large-scale re-enactment of the 1811 German Coast Uprising, in which as many as 500 enslaved people of African descent marched toward New Orleans from the surrounding sugar plantations in an inspiring, but eventually doomed, effort to win their freedom.”

Ms. Ross says that “her great-great-grandmother was part of the original slave rebellion. ‘My family has been taught how to survive through everything.'”

Article: With a Slave Rebellion Re-enactment, an Artist Revives Forgotten History

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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