Clarity First Newsletter, October 12, 2018

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

Allen Ginsberg was right, we need to change our thinking. The “homo economicus” behavioral model (see lead story) that got us here is not going to get us where we want to go. Here’s some of what I fished from the firehose’s stream this week. Happy Friday.

New Economy 

Do business with others as you would have them do business with you. 

Last month Venture capitalist, Nick Hanauer, was awarded the 2018 Harvard and MIT Humanist of the Year award, the first capitalist ever to receive the honor.

Democracy magazine has adapted his rousing acceptance speech. “It is a sign of the times that one of the best-known moral claims by an American business is Google’s: “Don’t be evil.” At least they have one. But it is interesting to reflect on. Put aside whether Google has lived up to its credo or not. How did we get to the point where the highest standard a business will hold itself to is simply the absence of evil?.

“And how did we get to a so-called “ethics” of business that insists that the only affirmative responsibility of a corporate executive is to maximize value for shareholders?

“I believe that these corrosive moral claims derive from a fundamentally flawed understanding of how market capitalism works, grounded in the dubious assumption that human beings are “homo economicus”:  perfectly selfish, perfectly rational, and relentlessly self-maximizing. It is this behavioral model upon which all the other models of orthodox economics are built. And it is nonsense.”
Article: ‘Homo Economicus’ Must Die

Group Process, Group Productivity, Organizational Culture

How can you optimize a company for calm, not chaos?

Twenty-five years ago Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson were running a design firm in Chicago. To better manage their own work they designed and built a project management platform. It didn’t take long for them to see that the licensing of that software was a more interesting business model than doing one-off projects for fickle clients. Twenty years later many, including me, rely on their Basecamp to keep track of who is doing what when.

Being designers they asked first, how can we optimize a company for calm, not chaos? How do we minimize distraction and maximize quality work time? By asking questions like this they discovered some new rules of enjoyable productivity. Now they’ve written a book about what they’ve learned, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. Here’s an excerpt.
Article: Say No To Meetings! And 3 Other Ideas To Keep Your Workplace Happy And Healthy

Gender Dynamics, Learning

A new study points to reasons why females don’t, but could, lead.

Dr. Jennifer Smith and colleagues have released a study of non-human mammals that “elucidates barriers to female leadership, but also reveals that traditional operationalizations of leadership are themselves male-biased”.

“As a cultural species, we humans are able to select for our own future, get rid of – if we want – glass ceilings and pyramids, and create the kinds of social structures that enable organizations to profit from the ‘female leadership advantage’. For me, this is notion that cultural traditions of humans may shape opportunities for female leadership is very exciting and leaves me with a sense of optimism.”
Article: Lessons from Animals About Barriers to Female Leadership

Advertising, Persuasion, PSAs

‘When We All Vote’ campaign launches with PSA built on Aretha’s ‘Respect’. Michelle Obama is behind it.

The 90-second film, directed by Maggie Burrows, features a cast that includes a student blogger, a concert cellist, an olympian, and an agricultural activist. One line at a time they make a simple request for respect. The campaign, on social and digital channels, launched this week.

The ad encourages every eligible American to get registered and ready to vote in the upcoming midterms.

“In the 2014 midterms, only 23% of eligible 18-35 year olds cast a ballot,” says Kyle Lierman, CEO of When We All Vote. “But in 2018, young people all across the country are speaking up, demanding respect and registering to vote.”
Article/Video Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ Becomes a Voter Registration Anthem

Advertising, Social Responsibility, Activism

It pays to stand up for what is right.

In early September Nike made Colin Kaepernick one of the faces of its newest ad campaign. With clean data to sort, it looks like a genius move. Foot traffic to 242 Nike stores in the U.S. between August 21 and September 10, compared to the same period in 2017, was up by an average of 16.9%.
Article: After Kaepernick Ad, Nike Store Traffic Was Up in Blue–and Red–Counties.

Philanthropy, Inequality, Social Progress

How families are the unit of change and the source of leadership that our country needs

Luz Vega-Marquis is the president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation. Their guiding principle is “building the power of poor and low-income families to end poverty”. They encourage the nonprofits and networks they support to fight “across the dividing lines of policy issues, geography, race, gender, resource scarcity, and economics”. Here’s some of the lessons they’ve learned with their grantees. Lesson one is about the agency that strong networks provide.
Article: The Power of Families: From Poverty to Agency to Unity

Identity, Graphic Design

The Beatles logo was a part of a brand placement deal.

The origin of one of the the most famous logos in entertainment history starts in a drum shop. Ringo and Beatles manager Brian Epstein were shopping for a new set of drums. Ringo fell in love with the Ludwig Downbeat. Epstein convinced the owner of the store that the Beatles were on the verge of stardom, and that he should give the young drummer the drums for free. The shopkeeper agreed, with the stipulation that Ringo keep the Ludwig logo on the bass drum head. Epstein countered with a request that the band’s name be printed right below the logo. He sketched how it should look, and for £5 a sign painter finished the job. Who says that brand identity takes a committee?
Article: How the Beatles Got Their Famous Logo



Cat Power performing last month in NY. Image via BrooklynVegan,

Last Friday Cat Power released her tenth full length album. For twenty years the quirky, iconoclastic musician had been relying on the quirky, iconoclastic record label Matador to distribute her music. But this time when she delivered her new work the label turned it down. The way she tells the story, a label rep played her an Adele song, so that this veteran could hear what a hit song sounded like.

Lucky for us she found a new label, and lucky for us she has released Wanderer. She continues to make music that is both unexpected and pleasingly stretching.

Apparently her fans had a bit more faith in her than Matador. She released this song – Woman (feat. Lana DelRay) – last August and it’s already been viewed almost 3,000,000 times.

She’s made a Spotify playlist, The Woman Playlist. It is deliciously and expertly eclectic. It plays like a 90 minute album.
Here’s Wanderer, the new album on Spotify.
Here’s the album on her site.
She’s on tour now. Cat Power Tickets

I’m glad she’s back. I’ve missed her.


Images of the Week

The larger work on the top is titled “No Face (Pannier)” (2018), Terracotta, graphite, salt-fired porcelain, steel, raffia. The larger work on the bottom is a detail of “Cupboard VIII,” (2018), Stoneware, steel, raffia, Albany slip. Both are by Simone Leigh. Both are being shown now in her first solo show, Chelsea, in NY’s Luhring Augustine gallery.

Image by Interview Magazine

In 2015 she told Art in America magazine that she typically works “in an auto-ethnographic mode. My practice has been object-based for the most part. I have created sculpture, installation and video, with performance sometimes as the form for the work.

Image by Interview Magazine

“My artwork is in large part an exploration of black female subjectivity, and I also am interested primarily in a black woman audience. Issues that often come up are labor, authorship and women as the containers of community knowledge and as a source for material culture.”

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