The First Annual Call for Clarity Conference

March 30, 2016 ∙ New York City

A gathering for experts and advocates serious about conquering the crisis of complexity to improve business and society.

Research has shown that people are fed up with the complexity permeating our world. This complexity costs us money, undermines social progress, stymies business growth, and even puts our health at risk. Today, however, tools like social media exist that allow us to fight back and demand clarity, transparency and efficiency. The Call for Clarity Conference is an opportunity for innovators in fields ranging from technology to education to healthcare to finance to share their ideas and network with other thought leaders so, together, we can conquer the crisis of complexity—the greatest barrier to profit and progress.



Head of Merrill Lynch

John Thiel is head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. In this role, he is responsible for the strategic management of over 14,000 financial advisors and 6,000 client associates who make up Merrill Lynch’s U.S. Wealth Management Group, along with more than 300 private wealth advisors in the Private Banking and Investment Group.

John was named head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in April 2011, but his journey with Merrill Lynch began two decades before, when he joined the company as a financial advisor in Tampa, Florida in 1989. John was then selected to join the Global Private Client Division leadership team, later serving as the director in both Oakbrook and Northbrook, Illinois. In 2000, John joined the Private Banking and Investment Group, opening the private wealth management business in the Pacific Coast Region as regional managing director. During that time, he also led the firm’s leadership Advisory Council to Management between 2003 and 2005. He was named head of the Private Banking and Investment Group in 2006, a role he held until his current one.

As his leadership and responsibilities within Merrill Lynch have grown, John has gained a new perspective on the role of Merrill Lynch’s advisors. One of his key priorities as the head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management is accelerating the shift toward a new dialogue: talking to clients about money in the way they think about it. Clients feel their money ‘has a job to do’ to help them reach their goals (e.g., educate their children, care for their parents, fund their homes, etc.). Under John’s leadership, Merrill Lynch is focused on helping clients reach the outcomes they desire by offering the right capabilities, stripping away needless complexity, and constantly adjusting and adapting to their changing needs – the heart of the company’s goals-based approach. Merrill Lynch has always been the standard-bearer for the financial services industry, and this is a responsibility John takes very seriously. Since joining the firm, John has strived to carry out the principles of Charlie Merrill’s 100+ year old legacy – that the customer must always come first, through good economic times and bad. Simultaneously, John recognizes how the wealth management industry continues to change, and the requirement for Merrill Lynch to be forward-thinking. Outside of his other responsibilities as head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, John serves as a member of the Global Wealth and Investment Management (GWIM) Executive Committee, the Risk Rating Executive Oversight Committee, and the GWIM Product Approval Committee. He is also the executive sponsor for the GWIM Diversity and Inclusion Council.

Before joining Merrill Lynch, John led a distinguished career in public accounting and the insurance industry. His background includes tax and estate planning experience, with financial operating expertise as a CPA with KPMG. John also served as a senior instructor of the Dale Carnegie Professional Selling courses, helping countless students improve their skills.

A vocal advocate for cancer research, John serves as chairman of the Manhattan Region Financial Services Cares Board of the American Cancer Society. He also serves as chairman of the Board of Florida State University’s Foundation. John received his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Florida State University and became a Certified Public Accountant in 1985.

Chair, Common Good

Philip K. Howard is a well-known leader of government and legal reform in America. He is Chair of Common Good (, Senior Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP, and has advised two presidents and numerous public officials on legal and regulatory reform. His new book, The Rule of Nobody, has been praised by Fareed Zakaria as “an utterly compelling and persuasive book that, if followed, could change the way America works.” He is also author of the bestseller The Death of Common Sense, and Life Without Lawyers.

His TED Talk has been widely watched and distributed and he has appeared on, among other shows, NewsHour and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Howard became active in government reform through his many years as a civic leader in New York and is chair emeritus of the Municipal Art Society.

Founder, Discovering Agreement

Linda earned her law degree, magna cum laude, in 1997 and is licensed to practice in Texas and California. She entered private practice in the large firm environment—including Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (Palo Alto) and Vinson & Elkins (Houston). Later, as Senior Counsel for Litigation and Trademarks at Align Technology, Inc., Linda managed litigations on behalf of the corporation as well as shepherding the company’s valuable consumer trademark portfolio. Linda launched her solo practice in 2005 and, in 2012, was recognized by the American Bar Association as a “Legal Rebel” for her innovative approach to contract formation.

Linda developed Discovering Agreement as a way to reframe the negotiation process, the drafting of contract language, and the performance of contractual relationships. Where conventional perspectives cast the parties as adversaries and bargaining power as a function of dominance, Discovering Agreement orients the parties as collaborators co-designing their ideal business relationship. With Discovering Agreement, parties take the reins and, facilitated by legal counsel, build their own ideal systems within the context of the larger legal-justice system, actively transforming how the conventional system impacts their present and future interactions and dealings.

Linda’s approach grew out of years of study of the principles of active and effective nonviolence and draws on proven mediation and restorative justice models of dispute resolution. It is also informed by current research in neuroscience, and by developing trends in business, such as “Conscious Capitalism” (re-orienting business governance and development towards socially, environmentally, and personally responsible values).

Her book “Discovering Agreement: Using Contracts to Build Agile and Resilient Relationships in an Uncertain and Disruptive Marketplace” is being published by the American Bar Association and scheduled for release early Spring 2016.

Head of Design, Swisscom

Christina Taylor is Head Human Centered Design, Swisscom Schweiz AG. Christina’s department works at the intersection of innovation practice, strategy, brand experience and cultural transformation with the goal of turning Swisscom into an experience-driven company. Christina believes in Human Centered Design as a means of problem-solving and developing projects and in the merits of creating consistent end-to-end experiences for customers. She trusts in the value of inspiring workspaces, in the delicate balance of creativity and control and in challenging “the way it has always been done.”

Christina’s experience as a marketing and brand experience expert covers a wide range of assignments in the telecommunication industry (Swisscom, Omega/Switzerland, Mutiara Telecom/Kuala Lumpur). She both designed the e2e Experience at expo.02 and managed the operations of the pavilion. She worked in San Francisco for five years at Swisscom Outpost and brought back to Switzerland the knowledge she gained about Human Centered Design in Silicon Valley.

Christina is the creator of 7 Design Skills – a capability driven approach to Human Centered Design. As Member of the Management Board Swisscom Residential, she leads a team of 70 employees and has trained and coached several hundreds of employees and numerous members of management at Swisscom. HCD consulting and customer observation/research have yielded some impressive results including new price plans for mobile (Infinity) and bundles (Vivo) as well as new Swisscom shops.

Christina coaches in German, English & French and is known for her vivid and engaging style as a trainer, as well as a speaker at national & international conferences. She has an MBA of Graduate School of Business Administration, Zurich.

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Dean, Birmingham Business School

Simon Collinson was appointed Dean of Birmingham Business School and Professor of International Business at the University of Birmingham in 2012. He is a Member of the UK ESRC Council, the Council of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Council of the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS). He also sits on the Management Board, led by Sir Peter Bonfield and Lord Young overseeing the UK Small Business Charter.

Other recent roles include Founding Director at the Simplicity Partnership and a visiting Professor at the School of Economics and Management, Zhejiang University.

Simon’s research is in the areas of international business, innovation, complexity and China. His most recent book, ‘From Complexity to Simplicity’ was shortlisted in 2014 for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) business book of the year prize. He is engaged in consulting and executive coaching with a range of multinational firms and teaches on the Executive programs at Judge Business School, Cambridge University.

His research has been widely reported in the media including BBC WM, Radio 5 Live, the Times, the Sunday Times, the New Statesman, BBC Radio 4 and the US News and World Report. He also co-authors one of the best-selling ‘International Business’ textbooks published by the Financial Times / Pearson.

Founder, Legal Visuals

Susanne Van der Meer is a legal information designer and strategic illustrator, originally from the Netherlands, since 2005 based in Denver, Colorado, United States. She is the author of ‘Visual language for Lawyers’ (published in Dutch – 2004) and has developed various trainings based on this method.

She practiced law for twelve years as an attorney and corporate lawyer. Her company Legal Visuals ( translates legal fine print into accessible and user-centered visual solutions. Visual contracts are her current focus area (

She started as an outlet for creative experiments in the legal sandbox. She creates hand drawn information graphics and sketch videos to engage people with complex information.(

Asst. Chief of Police, Montgomery Co.

Assignments (26 years: 17 as an executive, 15 which have been command level)

-Assistant Chief, Management Services Bureau (current)
-Commander; 5th and 2nd District Stations
-Director; Special Operations, Training/Education and Personnel Divisions
-Deputy Commander, 4th District Station
-Incident and SERT (Special Events Response Team) Commander on major incidents and events; Baltimore City Riots, assisting with numerous Presidential Inaugurations, POTUS visits, DC Papal visit, IMF protests, Pittsburg G20 Summit, US Open Golf Tournament
-Assorted other non-executive positions


Masters Degree from Johns Hopkins University and Bachelors from Florida State University, Certified Public Manager from George Washington University, MWCOG Regional Executive Leadership Development Program; graduate and Class President

Graduate of the Major City Chiefs Police Executive Leadership Institute, FBI National Executive Institute (37), FBI National Academy (224), Law Enforcement Executive Development School, Army War College National Security Seminar, United States Secret Service Dignitary Protection Seminar and other assorted specialized training, graduate and instructor of Leadership In Police Organizations (LPO class)

Leadership Development and Anti-terrorism efforts included traveling to and working with other countries; Israel, Russia, Romania, and Argentina

Professional Organizations:

Member of FBI National Academy Associates (since 2006)
Active member of a committee and board as part of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), PERF member, Major City Chiefs, FOP

Various Collaborative Experiences:

-Working with the FBI (via the MWCOG Chief’s committee) and various other tactical teams to further the regional response for tactical events such as active shooter and a Mumbai-type event…via tabletops and regional scenario-based efforts to develop and execute on policies which included team protocols, equipment and communications issues. All these efforts were inclusive of Fire Rescue and EMS
-Participated in a discussion in Quantico with the FBI to assess the capabilities and long-term deployment strategy for FBI tactical teams throughout the US
-The DC Sniper Detail
-Speaker/Lecturer at multiple IACP conferences and OPTAC Conference
-Published articles in the Police Chief magazine
-College instructor, University of Maryland University College

CEO, StateBook

Calandra Cruickshank is CEO and co-founder of StateBook International, the first nationwide online marketplace for corporate site selection and economic growth. Calandra specializes in designing and implementing creative campaigns using sustainable and socially responsible programs and strategic alliances between for-profit and non-profit companies and government agencies. She has created and consulted for internet and mobile companies for the past 10 years.

Calandra previously co-founded and served as president and on the board of directors for, an online coupon hosting platform that benefits nonprofits while saving consumers money and driving traffic and sales to brands and retailers. Calandra also co-founded and served as senior vice president for Good Deed Foundation, a national branding and licensing company that leveraged existing supermarket products to support non-profit organizations benefitting climate change and women and families in poverty.

Calandra graduated with a BS in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She now splits her time between Manhattan and the Catskill Mountains in NY.

CEO, Siegelvision

Alan Siegel is one of the best-known figures in the branding industry and a longtime advocate of clarity and simplicity in communications. In 2011, Alan created Siegelvision, a boutique brand identity consultancy that champions clarity above all. Alan is also the founder and chairman emeritus of global branding agency Siegel+Gale.

Alan Siegel founded Siegel+Gale in 1969, and over the course of forty years transformed it from a small consultancy into one of the most respected branding firms in the world. While at Siegel+Gale, Alan helped define some of the most iconic brands of our time, working with clients like the NBA, Xerox, American Express, Caterpillar, The Girl Scouts, Aetna, Pfizer, MasterCard and many others. Always an innovator, Alan developed the concept of Brand Voice™ and was one of the first in the industry to use the internet as a tool for brand communication. Throughout his entire career, Alan has always been a proponent of clarity and simplicity, and has applied those principles to all of his work.

Having experienced the power of clarity in branding, Alan became a major figure in the Plain English movement during the 1970s and worked with dozens of major financial institutions, the Census Bureau and the IRS to simplify insurance policies, bank loan notes, mutual fund prospectuses, census forms, individual income tax returns, and other complex financial and legal documents.

Alan has written extensively on this subject for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post and the National Law Journal, and has talked about simplification on Today, The McNeil-Lehrer Report, CNN, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and at the TED Conference.

Alan currently sits on the boards of several foundations and community organizations, including John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Museum of Arts and Design, the Nathaniel Wharton Foundation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Business for Diplomatic Action, The Authors Guild Foundation, Aperture Foundation, and the American Theater Wing, where he is a Tony voter.

Alan is the author of a series of personal financial guides for The Wall Street Journal, including the bestseller The Wall Street Journal Guide to Money and Markets. He is also the author of two books of photography, One Man’s Eye: Photographs from the Alan Siegel Collection and Step Right This Way: The Photographs of Edward J. Kelty. In 2006, Louis Slovinsky authored Alan Siegel on Branding and Clear Communications, a biography on Alan, his legacy and his philosophy. Alan’s newest book, Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, was released in 2013 and was named one of the best business books of 2013 by Strategy+Business magazine.

VP, BIT North America

Elizabeth Linos is the Vice President and Head of Research and Evaluation at BIT North America. Her research centers on how to improve government performance and service delivery, with a specific focus on recruiting, retaining and motivating public servants. Within BIT, she has led a series of projects on policing, teaching, and government effectiveness in both the UK and the US.

Prior to working with the Behavioral Insights Team, Elizabeth worked in government, as a policy advisor to the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, during the Greek financial crisis.  There, she focused on public sector reform and government innovation.  Before that, she worked in research design and implementation, with the Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in Bangladesh, France and Morocco.  Elizabeth holds an A.B. in Government and Economics (magna cum laude with highest honors) from Harvard University, where she is also completing a PhD in Public Policy.

Chief Clarity Officer, Siegelvision

Irene is one of the nation’s leading experts on plain English writing and simplifying communications. As the driving force behind many milestones in consumer information, Irene has been instrumental in developing and testing radically transformed consumer documents. In fact, she led the development of the first investor-oriented account statement on Wall Street and the first simplified hospital bill. Over the course of Irene’s 30-year career, she has helped set new communication standards in some of society’s most complex industries.

Irene has deep expertise in the insurance, banking, brokerage, healthcare, government and utility sectors. She has pioneered breakthrough programs for organizations including Allstate, General Electric, Cleveland Clinic, Emblem Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Assurant, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), PNC Bank and Bank of America. She has also led simplification assignments of massive scale, notably for AT&T, IBM and the IRS.

Irene frequently authors articles and addresses audiences on the business and societal benefits of clarifying information to improve the customer experience. She has been interviewed by the press extensively and delivered speeches for executive gatherings sponsored by Forrester Research, The Conference Board, American Bankers Association, Kimberly-Clark, SIFMA, USAID and IBM Canada. She has also addressed the American Council of Life Insurers annual conference and a Federal Trade Commission gathering.

Most recently, Irene co-authored Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, which was released in April 2013 to critical acclaim and named a “Best Business Book of 2013” by Booz & Company. It has since been published in several international editions, including UK, China, South Korea, Hungary and Brazil.

Irene has served on the boards of the Center for Plain Language, Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University and Dalbar. She is an invited contributor to Medium and can be followed on Twitter at @Irene_Etzkorn.

Irene holds an MA in professional writing from Carnegie Mellon University and a BA with highest honors from C.W. Post College, where she majored in English and biology.

Former CEO, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Mr. Bonner joined Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in 1999 as President and Chief Executive Officer and has served as a member of the CTCA Board since 1996. In July, 2013, he assumed the new role as Executive Chairman for CTCA, and completed his role as a CTCA Executive on February 1, 2014..

In September, 2014, he accepted an appointment as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. He mentors students on health care, health policy, and health care innovation, and also co-taught four courses on healthcare innovation.

A passionate advocate of patient-centric, quality-driven healthcare, he has championed putting patients in control of their own medical decisions by empowering them with comprehensive, unbiased information about their medical conditions. Mr. Bonner’s commitment to unsurpassed patient care has recently earned him a place on Modern Healthcare magazine’s prestigious list of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare”.

Prior to CTCA, Mr. Bonner served as executive vice president of Keyport Life Insurance Company. Before that he served as president, Construction Information Group of The McGraw-Hill Companies; and vice president, Individual Insurance Services of the Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, New Jersey, where he created Prudential’s consumer banking operation.

Prior to that, Mr. Bonner was president, National Liberty Corporation Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; executive vice president and general counsel of Capital Holding Corporation; and served in various Law Department functions at The Prudential.

He has also served as a Lifetime Trustee of the American Architectural Foundation; as the Chairman of the Board of William Mitchell College of Law; a Director of the Tennis Opportunity Program, as well as a Director of Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern Regional Medical Center; Southeastern Regional Medical Center; and Western Regional Medical Center; and as a Trustee of Lincoln Park Zoo.

Mr. Bonner earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Amherst College and a Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law.

He and his wife, Lisa, live in Chicago with their children, Mark and Alexis. He also is the father of Ted, Ann and Leslie.

More speakers to come.