Clarity First Newsletter, September 15, 2017

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

Today, just hours before I sent this letter, the Cassini spacecraft plunged through Saturn’s atmosphere to die in a fireball. The craft, a joint international effort, was launched in 1997 and arrived at the ringed planet in 2004. Since then it has been beaming reams of images and data to a team of more than 250 scientists. They’ve seen moons that might harbor life, and they’ve found hints of the origins of our galaxy. The effort reminds me that when we focus together we unleash unfathomable power. To the team that made the impossible just another day’s work, mazel tov. To the rest of us, let’s use this noble effort as inspiration for how we can learn to live as one. NOVA has a great documentary: Death Dive to Saturn.

Most entrepreneurs find success and lasting satisfaction by staying small. 

Bigger doesn’t mean better, or more successful, over the long term.
Article: Dear Entrepreneurs: Small Is Still Beautiful.

Designs become experiences when people use them.

Design thinker and writer, Christina Wodtke, has blended MDA, a theory of how game design works, with Loops and Arcs, which are ways to organize game play, and applied the results to the design of everyday things. She calls her new recipe CAMP. It stands for context, architecture, mechanics, and poetics.
Article: A Unified Theory for Designing Just About Anything

If you find writing easy, you’re doing it wrong.

“One useful tip for aspiring writers comes from the film A River Runs Through It, in which the character played by Tom Skerritt, a Presbyterian minister with a literary bent, receives essays from his children and instructs them to make each successive draft ‘half as long.’ If you want to write a successful 700-word op-ed, start with a longer draft, then cut and cut again.”
Article: Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers

Every industry will be disrupted. Management consulting is next.

Here are five fatal flaws of the consulting industry. And yes, this is exactly what the Clarity agency alternative model is about.
Article: The Business Consulting Industry is Booming, and it’s About to be Disrupted.

Improv and Design Thinking go hand in hand. 

Improv as a craft can foster the thinking behind design thinking, giving confidence to its practitioners, and creating healthier team dynamics.
Article: Improv and Design Thinking

Learning about systems thinking 

At a party a couple of Saturday’s ago, a DIY Brand camper asked me what to read first when exploring systems thinking. Without hesitation I said, “Thinking in Systems”, by Donella Meadows. If you want to go deeper, the Academy for Systems Change has cherry picked Meadows’ most important works.

  1. Thinking in Systems
  2. Leverage Points
  3. Limits to Growth
  4. Dancing with Systems
  5. Problems are Connected – and so are Solutions
  6. Indicators and Information Systems for Sustainable Development
Learning to change the world with enterprise

What has passed for innovation over the last 20 or 30 years has been more focused on disrupting markets than changing the world. We need to do more.
Article: Innovation Needs To Shift From Disrupting Markets To Tackling Grand Challenges

Why great communication is hard

How do you build a company culture in which employees actually work together, instead of against one another?
Ask yourself the following:
Do I see the big picture in my organization? Does my team?
Do I encourage dissenting opinions and viewpoints? Do I reward employees for giving me authentic feedback, even if I don’t agree with it?
Do I demonstrate empathy, by taking employees’ problems seriously–and actively helping them find solutions?
Do I promote an environment that encourages growth, even if it means (at times) losing a great employee to another team, another department–or even another company?
Article: This Email From Elon Musk to Tesla Employees Describes What Great Communication Looks Like


Before the Cincinnati band The National packed out cool venues, bassist Scott Devendorf and singer Matt Berninger were designers in New York. Their taste for graphic design is evident in the band’s latest record, Sleep Well Beast, designed by Pentagram and released last Friday on 4AD.
Article: The National Talk us Through Their Latest Record, Designed by Pentagram’s Luke Hayman

Images of the week

In 12+ years of circling Saturn and its moons, Cassini has taken thousands of strikingly beautiful images. NASA has posted a lot of them.

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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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