Clarity First Newsletter,
October 4, 2019

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.” – Lou Reed

Clarity First

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

I have never felt more afraid for our democracy, as imperfect as it is. At the same time I’ve never felt more hopeful about what we know, and what we are learning.

Let’s not give up, ok? Let’s keep reaching toward our miracle potential.

Happy Friday.

Organizational Design

Creating soulful organizations

“Rigid hierarchies prone to bureaucratic gridlock have unique vulnerabilities now, whereas dynamic entities that can react quickly to “black swan” events have compelling advantages. Furthermore, as routine tasks are automated, humans will be freed to take on and create more creative roles—if organizations will allow it. A lot hinges on our ability to organize in new ways, including our collective wellbeing. Charity: Water founder Scott Harrison put it this way: ‘Eliminate bureaucracy, and awaken the humanity within.’

“So what does the next evolution of the organization look like? How do companies harness a greater intelligence through design, and in the process cultivate human flourishing?” This article suggests that the blockchain might provide some clues.

Article: How Can We Design Companies For Human Flourishing?

Systems Thinking

“How do you shift power in a system?”

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

“In the classic systems thinking essay, ‘Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,’Donella Meadows writes, ‘Leverage points are points of power in a system.’ So, systems change is all about shifting power. However, the implementation of systems change often ignores this central aspect.

“Revisiting the top five leverage points in the system begins to illuminate the extent of the change that is brought just by even one of these. In increasing order of effectiveness, they are:

5. The power to set the rules of the system
4. The power to change or evolve the structure of the system
3. The power to set the goals of the system
2. The power to set the paradigm of the system
1. The power to transcend the paradigm of the system

“Regarding the power to set the rules—incentives, punishments, constraints—Meadows writes, ‘If you want to understand the deepest malfunctions of systems, pay attention to the rules, and to who has power over them.’ For example, capitalism is a system where the rules are designed by owners of corporations, run by corporations, for the benefit of corporations—which is why all others are made subordinate by it. Nonprofits, which themselves require a corporate board and leading executives that make organizational decisions, by design are systems where the power to make rules is monopolized by an elite, and thus, ultimately, are, at their core, not very different from for-profit corporations.”

Article: Systems Change Is All about Shifting Power

Gender Equity

How come there are so few women in design?

“Research from the UK’s Design Museum in 2018 found that just one in five working designers are women, despite the fact that they make up seven out of 10 students studying design….This project focuses most frequently on the issues faced by designing women, and it defines woman as any one who identifies herself as such.” The project explores “the impact of women in design. It also aims to raise awareness of an ongoing gender imbalance in the design industry.”

Web Project: Designing Women


To truly benefit from innovation, humanitarian organizations need to regard innovation as a set of values that runs through all of their practices.

“In the face of a more globalized, connected, and complex world, we need to, more than ever, position innovation as a bold and courageous way of doing things. It’s common for people to demote innovation as a process that tinkers around the edges of organizations, but we need to think about innovation as a tool for changing the way systems work and our practices so that they better serve communities. This matters, because humanitarian needs are only going to grow, and the resources available to us likely won’t match that need. When the values that underpin our attitudes and behaviors as humanitarians drive innovation, we can better focus our efforts and create more impact with less—and we’re going to have to.”

Article: The Art of Values-Based Innovation for Humanitarian Action


The result of decades of peer-reviewed published research on why people comply with requests

“In the increasingly overloaded lives we lead, more than ever we need shortcuts, or rules of thumb, to guide our decision making. My own research has identified just six of these shortcuts, and universals, that guide human behavior. They are: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking and consensus. Understanding these shortcuts, and employing them in an ethical manner, significantly increases the chances that someone will be persuaded by your request.” – Dr. Robert Cialdini

Video: Science of Persuasion


UK paper manufacturer, G.F Smith, has found the world’s most relaxing color.

“The World’s Favorite Color Project, as it’s been named, has also found that we tend to associate the future with shades of green, luxury with purples and oranges, and red is the one we tend to tie to passion.”

Article: The Most Relaxing Color in the World? Dark Blue Apparently

Graphic Design, Resources

This gives “stock” photography a whole new meaning.

Generated Photos is a team of AI engineers, photographers, make-up artists, re-touch artists, models and a videographer. In their words they are “building technology to create on-demand media”. They’ve just released the 100K Faces project, a bank of 100,000 images of AI-generated people who do not exist.
All images are free, with no copyright or usage limitations.
Spooky? Definitely. The future? We’ve only just begun.
See also:



On their Bandcamp page Seratones describe themselves as “four musicians highly skilled in the art of rocking your socks off, bringing the house down, and blowing your mind. Our goal is to make your musical experience replenish your faith in the power of Rock & Roll. Cheers to all our fans and friends for believing in the power of music!”

I’ll underscore their goal of replenishing our faith in Rock & Roll. This is three-chord rock played on two guitars, bass and drums. And as Lou Reed said, “if it has more than three chords, it’s jazz”, and “you can’t beat two guitars, bass, and drums”.

While this music could have been recorded in 1968, it feels fresh and new, because it is.

They did bring the house down when they played a Tiny Desk Concert.

This summer they released a new album, Power, on New West Records. Long live Rock & Roll.


Image of the week

The image of the week was drawn by Nelson Mandela. It is a rendering of Qunu, Mvezo, the rural village in the Eastern Cape where he spent much of his childhood. “This drawing, made in 2002, was inspired by a mural in his home in Houghton, Johannesburg where a local artist painted scenes from Qunu with its characteristic thatched rondavel homes. Although born in Mvezo, Qunu was Nelson Mandela’s home from a very early age, following his family being forcibly evicted from the arable lands at Mvezo some 35km away.”

The drawing is one of the Homeland series, drawings that are being shown now for the first time to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.


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