Clarity First Newsletter, October 13, 2017

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

Every Thursday evening I join a group of mountain bikers to ride the hills of western Massachusetts. If you ever want to feel 10 years old again, strap a light to your helmet and go barreling down a wooded hill in the dark. Before the ride, a couple of weeks ago, a few of us admitted that we almost didn’t make it that night. Together we agreed that the hardest part of any ride wasn’t the cold, or the challenge, or the exertion. The hardest part of any ride was getting off the couch and putting your bike in the car. What’s the hard part of an important project that you are avoiding?

We are losing the skills of cooperation needed to make a complex society work.

Author Richard Sennett is concerned that modern society is actively de-skilling people in practicing cooperation. “People are losing the skills to deal with intractable difficulties as material inequality isolates them, short term labor makes their social contracts more superficial and activates anxiety about the other.” Yet the simple act of collaboration and cooperation  provides a powerful antidote. “Cooperation oils the machinery of getting things done and sharing with others can make up for what we may individually lack. Cooperation is embedded in our genes but cannot remain stuck in routine behavior, it needs to be deepened and developed.” He’s got some great ideas about how to do so.
Book Review: Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation

The Value Proposition Canvas, and how to use it

A recent study found that 72% of new products and services introduced to the market fail to deliver on expectations. It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why Strategyzer launched the Value Proposition Canvas. Buy the book. Then watch their free video on how to get the most value from the book.
Article: Value Proposition Canvas: A Tool To Understand What Customers Really Want

A working framework for how to design the life you want

Steve Jobs said that you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward. Millie Tran has created an easy to use framework to do so.
Article: 5 Tips to Help You Figure Out What to Do With Your Life

Great brands live in our conversations, not in advertisements.

People don’t want to connect with brands. They want to connect with each other. Fascinating brands create more opportunities for people to connect with one another. Last week Elon Musk showed us how to do that when he said he could rebuild Puerto Rico’s devastated electrical grid by applying Tesla’s existing solar energy and battery storage technology.
Article: Elon Musk’s Response to Puerto Rico Is Pure Marketing Genius (And Should Be Required Reading).

Wells Fargo and VW both violated their own code of ethics.

As well as its content and format, the process for developing and implementing a code of ethics is critical in maximizing its influence on business behavior at all levels, and in all functions. Here’s a clear model for how to do so.
Article: The IBE 9 Step Model for Developing and Implementing a Code

Are you wasting time on social media, or is it helping you achieve impact? 

The easiest way to make sure your time on social media really counts is to have a social media strategy. If you can answer just four questions, then you’ve got yourself a social media strategy.
Article: Introducing the All New Fast Track Impact Social Media Strategy Template

People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

If your boss needs an example of why stopping to get clear on why your company/organization exists, who you serve, and how you help, saves time, money, and trouble, here’s a nice case study. In March, the organization that has been known as the Hampshire Council of Governments hired us to conduct a Clarity Brand Study. We talked to stakeholders. We surveyed the market, and we found a rather clear story buried in the muck of assumptions, and “the way things are”. Most importantly, we helped everyone — leadership, staff, board and membership — to clearly see a positioning strategy that everyone can rally behind, and the messaging strategies that will support it.

But that’s just the start of the story. In mid-June we signed a second contract to update the organization’s communications media to reflect the newly articulated brand positioning and messaging, to develop and test communication campaigns, and to train their in-house team to implement these new communications processes independently, without ongoing assistance from us.

The proof is in the pudding. While we’re not done with the whole program yet, last week we launched a completely revamped website and the first batch of updated collateral. The work includes a new name, updated visual identity, clarified messaging, and greatly improved user experience.

Want to refresh your brand, identity, collateral and website in less than four months? Start with clarity, first.


I didn’t fully appreciate how much I leaned on Tom Petty’s unique voice until it wasn’t there. So, this week I’ve been cruising the net for him playing live. Here’s Tom, with the Heartbreakers, playing The Waiting, with Eddie Vedder singing the lead. The sound that Petty gets from that Fender Strat 12-string, and how the Heartbreakers build that sound into a pure rock anthem, is emblematic of what I’ve been taking for granted. And who better to sing a rock anthem than Eddie? Here he talks about how he learned the song, in high school, during lunch hour, on the day it came out.

Rest in peace, Tom. Your beautiful spirit supports us as we navigate very challenging times. Thank you.

Images of the week

When Australian photographer George Byrne moved to Los Angeles, he began to create an experimental documentation of the city’s sun-drenched surfaces and vivid colors. About the resulting series, ‘New Order’, the artist says, “It allowed me to look at and combine elements in a more expressive way. While the images remain portraits of the city, they also become more abstract in their intention – based on a true story but open to interpretation.” iGNANT has a nice portfolio of images.

What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by Clarity, the consultancy that helps mission-driven companies use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as powerful tools for transformation. Learn more.

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