Clarity First Newsletter, November 2, 2018

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

This week the people of Brazil elected a new president who supports dictatorship and torture, who has lashed out against gays, women, and minorities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would not seek re-election as head of the party she has led for 18 years. Without her the promise of a European Union appears to be dim. And in the U.S., a president intent on dividing our nation promised to send up to 15,000 troops to the Mexican border to “protect” it from 4,000 men, women and children who are walking to America to seek legal asylum from gang death threats and the prospects of feeding a family on $5 per day.

Did I mention that Tuesday is election day? When the going gets tough, I turn to Bucky Fuller:

“Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it.”

“The procedure we are pursuing is that of true democracy. Semi-democracy accepts the dictatorship of a majority in establishing its arbitrary, ergo, unnatural, laws. True democracy discovers by patient experiment and unanimous acknowledgement what the laws of nature or universe may be for the physical support and metaphysical satisfaction of the human intellect’s function in universe.”

“Dear reader, traditional human power structures and their reign of darkness are about to be rendered obsolete.”

“[My vision is] To make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

“Take the initiative. Go to work, and above all co-operate and don’t hold back on one another or try to gain at the expense of another. Any success in such lopsidedness will be increasingly short-lived. These are the synergetic rules that evolution is employing and trying to make clear to us. They are not man-made laws. They are the infinitely accommodative laws of the intellectual integrity governing universe.”

Bucky also predicted that we would need to choose between utopia and oblivion. I’m fond of the utopian choice. We didn’t come this far to default to avarice and greed. We can do this. But we need to show up. 



Good will, or loving-kindness, is the antidote to ill will, hatred, and enmity.

Illustration by Tomi Um

Today a U.S. president foments fear, mistrust and divisiveness. How do we stand up for the promise of America in such a threatening environment? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the answer is love: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Mushim Patricia Ikeda teaches us how to generate loving-kindness and good will as an antidote to hatred and fear. “Metta is a meditation practice,” she says, “that involves concentrating and reciting, either silently or out loud, phrases of good wishes toward yourself and others…
“What this form of meditation is designed to do—and for many people does very successfully—is to purify us of hatred and ill will. Good will is the antidote to ill will. Good will, or loving-kindness, is the antidote to ill will, hatred, and enmity.”
Article: How to Practice Metta for a Troubled Time


Group Process, Group Productivity, Organizational Culture, Learning

How improv can help you navigate challenging meetings and difficult team dynamics at work

Image via

Dana Mitroff Silvers is a “design thinking facilitator” (her phrase) who is very generous with what she learns. This is a three part series of articles in which she gathers what she’s learned from years of taking improvisational theater classes.
“Whether I’m trying to get a skeptical curator to unfold her arms and participate, or an indifferent designer to look up from his iPhone and share his ideas, I’ve become increasingly mindful about which games can be used to foster creativity, model collaboration, support shared inquiry, boost energy, and support the design thinking process.”
Article: Using Improv Games to Foster Creativity and Collaboration


Marketing, Learning

Consumers should be called humans

Last week the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) threw their annual Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, FL. According to DigiDay “Human marketing was the buzzword of ANA with presenters arguing that with all of the talk on targeting, many brands seem to forget their customers are people. ‘In the Bay Area, you hear [marketing is] growth hacking. I think all of this gets to getting back to where the industry started, being useful to real people, humans,’ said Eric Reynolds, CMO of The Clorox Company.”
Other themes included:
-Brands need to know what they stand for,
-Marketers are far from really being smart about data, and
-Companies should commit to diversity goals.
Article: People, Not Consumers: 5 Things We Learned from the ANA Meeting


Advertising, Social Messaging

“We needed to make people see Plan as a global, modern organization that advances equality for girls everywhere.”

“Research shows that we talk differently to children depending on their gender. We talk to boys about their abilities, skills and potential and to girls about their bodies and feelings. Little by little, this starts to influence how they see themselves. A study shows that by the age of six, girls are more likely to think that boys are the smarter gender; many girls believe that men will do better in fields associated with brilliance – such as physics and mathematics.

“Sheboard is a virtual keyboard for boosting girls’ confidence. With predictive text input, it suggests gender-neutral language. It helps everyone reflect on – and possibly change – the ways we talk to and about girls. Sheboard also reminds girls about the abilities they have that people don’t always think to mention. The amount of communication that happens on our mobiles keeps growing. That’s why the keyboard is an ideal place for tapping into people’s language. But the idea is bigger than that; typing messages is something everyone can relate to, and just hearing about the keyboard makes people think how they choose their words when talking with or about girls.”
The campaign got media attention, both positive and reactionary, all over the world.
Article: Sheboard – Raised by Words


Branding, Marketing, Design

Instead of spending money on ad buys, companies can market themselves through their design. 

Marcus Engman, who spent six years as Ikea’s head of design, has left the dream seller to bring the value of what he proved there, that good design sells, to other companies. He has started a consultancy that shows leaders how to spend their marketing budget on customer understanding and design, rather than marketing.
Article: Design Will Kill Marketing, Says Ikea’s Former Design Chief


Identity Design, Branding

“Our work has sustained decades of change, seamlessly integrating with the cultural landscape it has been shaped by and has in turn shaped.”

“Since its founding in 1943, New York-based brand strategy and design company Lippincott has produced some of the world’s most recognized logo designs. In honor of Lippincott’s 75th anniversary, the creative agency has taken a trip down memory lane with designers behind some of the company’s most emblematic creations.”
Article: Branding & Design Firm Lippincott Celebrates 75 Years Of Its Most Iconic Designs


Personal productivity

Am I being who I most want to be right now?

Peter Bregman is a highly Google-able strategy consultant who writes about distraction vs. getting the right things done. One of his favorite productivity hacks is to set his watch, computer or phone to beep, ring or chime on the hour.

“I stop whatever I’m doing, take a deep breath, and ask myself two questions:
1. Am I doing what I most need to be doing right now?
2. Am I being who I most want to be right now?

“This isn’t all about staying on plan. Sometimes the beep will ring and I’ll realize that, while I’ve strayed from my calendar, whatever it is I’m working on is what I most need to be doing. In those situations I simply shift items on my calendar so my most important priorities still get done and I make intentional choices about what I will leave undone.”
Article: The Power of an Hourly Beep




Their Wiki page describes August Greene as an “American supergroup”. They call themselves a collective, with rapper Common serving as lead vocalist, backed by producers Robert Glapser on keyboards and Karrim Riggins on drums.

In February of this year they recorded this Tiny Desk session with a DJ, a bass player and four guest vocalists, Samora Pinderhughes, Brandy Norwood, Andra Day and Maimouna Youssef. It is quiet, sweet, soothing and assuredly uplifting and hopeful.

I’ve spoken of my awestruck respect for Andra Day before. She contributes a song called Stand Up for Something that crystallizes the loving sprit of the whole set. Listen to her wail lyrics like “If you bet on love, there’s no way you’ll ever lose. Take a stand, make a stand for what is right. It all means nothing if you don’t stand up for something”.

Common comes in behind her with a rhyme that ends with words that incite and challenge: “…Let the words of love be the ways of man. Today we dance between love and hate. Though know the date so we stay awake. A knee we take for our soul’s sake, a new history of an old faith. A president who trolls for hate, he don’t control our fate because God is great. When they go low we stay in the heights, I stand for peace and love and women’s rights”.

In March of this year the group released a self-titled full length album. It’s an elegant case in point that hip-hop is a great genre for our time. Here’s hoping that this supergroup gathers to co-create their beautiful music for many years to come.



Image of the Week

First commissioned in 1989, LA’s MOCA has reinstalled Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Questions) (1990/2018). Its provocations are now eerily prescient.

“The emblematic red, white, and blue artwork was originally commissioned by MOCA in 1989 for the exhibition A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis of Representation and was last installed in 1990 on the south wall of MOCA’s then Temporary Contemporary building. The work holds an iconic presence in the collective memory of Los Angeles’ art community and is considered part of the museum’s curatorial highlights over its forty year history.

“This iteration will be installed on the north facade of The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, facing Temple Street, measuring 30 ft. by 191 ft. in size. The work includes nine questions such as “Who is beyond the law?”, “Who is bought and sold?”, and “Who is free to choose?” The artwork uses these questions to point to issues of patriotism, civic engagement, and power relations. The work will remain on view through November of 2020. In connection with the work, a series of voter registration efforts will be anchored by the artwork in advance of the 2018 midterms, as well as the 2020 general election.”
Article: Massive and Monumental Barbara Kruger Work Reinstalled @ MOCA, Geffen, Los Angeles


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