Clarity First Newsletter,
September 13, 2019

“Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals”. –  Neil Gaiman

Clarity First

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

I’m always surprised by what emerges from writing this letter. This week I notice that many of the ideas that I fished out of the firehose are very practical. That is, they can be used to set things right, or at least better.

Happy Friday. “Don’t give up. Never give up the fight.” – Bob Marley

Learning, User Experience, Customer Perspective

Surveys are pretty much useless. How to talk so users will listen, and how to listen so users will talk.

I spend at least 20% of my time talking to end users. “Listen first” is the first step in the Clarity brand design process. But getting people to talk openly and candidly is tough. I’ve learned a lot from Steve Portugal. This might be “the book” on how to talk so users will listen, and how to listen so users will talk.

“Interviewing is a foundational user research tool that people assume they already possess. Everyone can ask questions, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Interviewing users provides invaluable interviewing techniques and tools that enable you to conduct informative interviews with anyone. You’ll move from simply gathering data to uncovering powerful insights about people.”

Book review Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights

Purpose, Mission, Vision

Why to lead with purpose to build your brand 

Image credit: Edelman Trust Barometer Report

Simon Mainwaring is the CEO & Founder of We First, “a creative consultancy committed to business as a force for good”. They advocate that brands start with “why” they are in business. And behind “why” is the brand’s purpose. He’s gathered 10 reasons why businesses should lead with purpose and to build their brand by making a positive impact on the world.

Article: Top Ten Reasons You Must Leverage Purpose to Build Your Brand

Customer Focus

Instead of obsessing about growth, here’s how to move the needle in your company: focus on your customer.

“From a young age, we learn that growth is good because it’s the opposite of decline. We carefully track the rise of cities and companies and gauge the health of our economies by how much—and how quickly—they grow. Growth is optimism. It’s the promise of spring, versus the frosty advance of winter.

“But for entrepreneurs, a “growth at all costs” mindset can be destructive. Founders who fixate on expanding markets or metrics tend to lose sight of their underlying reason to solve a problem for other people. They forget the reason why their business exists in the first place, and as a result, and that’s the key to sustainable success.”

Article: Your Obsession with Growth is Hurting Your Business

Design Thinking

“I believe what makes design thinking special is the ‘go wide, narrow, go wide, narrow’ rhythm. It generates the broadest possibilities, which leads to new solutions.”

“A picture is still worth a thousand words.”

Christina Wodtke has been thinking about design thinking a long time. And she’s been integrating it into her work for a long time. The cool news for us is that one of the things she does really well is distill and write. This is an almost encyclopedic intro to how to make the design thinking mindset a part of your organization’s operating system. Put this one in your toolbox. Refer to it as needed.

Article: Five Habits of Design Thinking

Group Process, Learning

“In principle, devil’s advocates allow us to combine the goal of figuring things out together with the goal of commitment to the truth—and they do this by functioning as a check on group consensus.”

“Thinking together is riddled with pitfalls, but we can’t really claim to live together without doing it. That is why we need devil’s advocates: they safeguard group-deliberation from the inside. The devil’s advocate defends faith and justice by being in the group but not of it: by keeping the group divided against itself, she holds a space for truth against the pressure of consensus. A devil’s advocate is, for instance, well set up to hunt for as-yet unshared information, since for her the sharing of information is never an attempt to be on the same page as other people.”

Article: The Devil’s Advocate’s Advocate

Social Messaging

A bullying story with a happy ending

Laura Snyder / Facebook / Via Facebook: permalink.php

“An elementary school student was bullied for wearing a homemade University of Tennessee shirt, prompting fellow UT fans to rally in support and the university store to turn his drawing into an official design.”

“…The university announced Friday that they would be making the student’s hand-drawn design into an official T-shirt and donating a portion of the proceeds to an anti-bullying foundation.” Then yesterday the school offered the kid admission and a four year scholarship should he choose to apply when the time comes.

Article: A Fourth-Grader Was Bullied For His DIY College Shirt, But Now It’s Official School Gear

Social Messaging, Branding

Hello to the Tampon Book

“A book that is a packaging for tampons to save taxes. A book that is a provocative message of existing gender inequality in our tax system. Filled with 15 tampons and 40 pages of explicit content about your period.”

In 1963 German lawmakers, all men, decided to tax feminine hygiene products at the highest luxury tax rate of 19%, while taxing true luxury goods like caviar, oil paintings and truffles at 7%.

So, German organic tampon company The Female Company decided to do a work around. They packaged tampons as a book, which is taxed at the lower 7% rate. While they were at it they took the opportunity to tell “funny and surprising stories about menstruation”. This effort is brilliant on so many levels.

TV Spot: The Tampon Book : A Book against Tax Discrimination (The Female Company P.R. Case)


Last week I held up, for the third time, the band that goes by the name Reina del Cid, and for the first time, their relationship with Carson McKee, and Josh Turner, who go by the name The Other Favorites. This week I want to hold up these two guys.

Their Spotify page says: “Founded in Charlotte, North Carolina, and currently based in Brooklyn, The Other Favorites is the ten-year Americana project of Carson McKee (vocals, guitar) and Josh Turner (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin).”

This is a relaxed and soothing cover of Roberta Flack’s Feel Like Makin’ Love.

Little Things, Willy Nelson cover

While I am not an Eagle’s fan, this reading of that band’s Take It Easy lets these guys show off their prodigious chops.

Image of the week

The image of the week is titled “Trolley —New Orleans,” 1955, by Robert Frank (via Pace/MacGill and the National Gallery of Art). He died on Monday at the age of 94. In announcing his passing the NYT said: “Mr. Frank, best known for his groundbreaking book, ‘The Americans,’ had a visually raw and personally expressive style that made him one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.”

In a separate article in the Times Arthur Lubow described the image this way: “Using the ready-made partitions of the window supports, Mr. Frank displayed the racial divisions that beset his adopted country. The haughty face of the white woman and the privileged look of the two children contrast poignantly with the weary expression of the African-American man consigned to the back of the streetcar. Adding to the formal élan of this great photograph, the reflections on the upper windows provide a framed series of abstract beauty.”

Article: 9 Photographs by Robert Frank Reveal His Mastery and Evolution

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.

If you get value from Clarity First, please pass it on.

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.

You can also read Clarity-First on the web.

Leave a Comment