Clarity First Newsletter, September 22, 2017

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

This week I’ve been engrossed in the documentary film series, The Vietnam War, by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. While I protested the war as a draft eligible teenager, the sheer lunacy and cruelty of America’s leadership role in this disastrous war has never been so clear to me.

The series is brutally difficult to watch. The Vietnamese people sought only the independence that America, in promise, stands for. And we cared only to project our role as “leaders of the free world”, damn the children, families, communities and ecosystems that just wanted to be free.

It might be easier to see if we had, as a culture, learned from the atrocities we committed. But, we haven’t. 50 years later we are still being lied to by an unpopular administration that believes more in “law and order” than it does in truth and justice.

Get up. Stand up. Resist. Our democracy, and the constitution that defines it, requires constant vigilance by it’s citizens. That’s you and me. What was started in the 60s with teach-ins about this ugly stain on our national identity was a beginning, not an end.

Thank you, Ken and Lynn, for this powerful and masterfully produced learning opportunity. The film is being broadcast on PBS, and you can stream it from their website.

When we experience art, we feel connected to something larger.

If you’ve been watching The Vietnam War, now imagine watching it in a theatre, with other people around you. The fact is, streaming media makes it so easy to veg out, alone, on our respective couches. But science suggests that when we experience art with others we get a lot more from it. We are social animals first. The experience of being an audience changes what we get from a performance. And, as any performer will tell you, the audience changes the performance.
Article: This is Your Brain on Art

“Political” is different from “partisan” and broader than electoral politics.

The harsh realty is that many issues have become a highly politicized, if somewhat confused, moral debate. Our organizations need to learn to stand up for evidence based solutions.
Article: Why Nonprofits Must Be Political: A Case in Point 

Design thinking focuses on the human experience.

Design thinking puts humans and how they work first. Because it does, it provides a lot of useful methodology and tools to human resource departments.
Article: Why HR is Embracing Design Thinking

Take your audience on a very short journey that hooks them, then leaves them wanting more.

I’m kind of busy here. Will this take long?
Article: 21 Ways to Tell Your Story in Just 3 Minutes

Start your next web design in the text editor.

Browsing a well-crafted web interface is like reading a great story. So, as designers, why don’t we incorporate screenwriting techniques into our process?
Article: Storyframes Before Wireframes

Listen first

In a few weeks I’m going to lead members of a national guild in a workshop on brand identity. Clear brand identity is rooted in a crystal clear understanding of who you serve, and of how you help them. So, the Clarity brand design process starts by listening to those you serve. Here’s some prep-work that I’m going to assign, Dialog Interviews. You can do this at home. It might be one of the most effective brand building exercises you ever do.
Article: How To Talk So Stakeholders Will Listen, and Listen So Stakeholders Will Talk.


This week, Ben Dorcy, who Willie Nelson called “the first roadie – ever,” died, at the age of 92. Starting in 1950, the man, who was widely recognized for his assertion that “you should get your shit together,” supported a who’s who of country-rooted artists, including Ray Price, Elvis Presley, Buck Owens, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Allan Coe, and Willie. Texas Monthly celebrated him a couple of years ago.
Article: “The First Roadie – Ever.”

Images of the week

Photographer Pablo Iglesias Maurer has been recreating scenes of the resorts of the Poconos and the Catskills, scenes that were originally composed to appear on postcards and matchbooks. But, he’s shooting them as they are now. The slide show photos at the top of this letter are both of the indoor tennis center at Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel. The first was shot during the resort’s heyday in the 60s. The second shows the same scene again, as it is today. The smaller is reproduced from a matchbook that promised “Swim n’ Sun Indoor Swimming Pool at Penn Hills Lodge and Cottages. The Poconos’ Finest Modern Resort.”

Maurer’s work reminds me that, as Stewart Brand observed, great buildings learn from the natural changes that define human communities. It’s much harder for lesser buildings to do the same.
Article: Abandoned States: Places In Idyllic 1960s Postcards Have Transformed Into Scenes Of Abandonment

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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