I Dream of Disruption

In June, unemployment hit 9.5%, the highest rate in 25 years, and a “sobering indication that the longest recession since the 1930s has yet to release its hold”, wrote the NY Times.

Not that any of us needed this statistic to know that times are tough.

Many of us have seen our net worth dwindle, and are tightening our belts to an extent we haven't had to in years, if ever.

Yet I find myself curiously optimistic.

When the Wall Street Journal asked Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen how the recession would affect innovation, his responding that it would have an “unmitigated positive effect on innovation”  was seemingly counter-intuitive.

He continued, “When the tension is greatest and the resources are most limited, people are actually a lot more open to rethinking the fundamental way they do business.  That's when breakthrough innovations occur.”


Source:  istockphoto

A recent CNN Money article tells of a woman whose husband was out-of-work.  As she and her husband fundamentally rethought how to do business, they've made ends meet — and then some.  This same article cites a study by the Kauffman Foundation indicating that 51% of the Fortune 500 companies began during a recession or bear market or both.

Maybe Christensen's ideas aren't so counter-intuitive.

We recently heard CK Woolley‘s story.  Without the need to rethink how she does business and lives her life, would there have been a Shabby Apple?

As an analyst on Wall Street, would I have amassed a set of portable skills if the resources I'd needed had been readily available?

Would our ‘dare to dream' community have had the marvelous month of guest blogs, if I hadn't been resource-constrained?


Source:  istockphoto

Most women, particularly mothers, continually feel the tension of having too little time and too small of a budget.  Because of this tension, we are expert at rethinking how things get done.

And with the ‘recession to have yet released its hold', is the time not ripe for our expertise?

I'm dreaming of disruption.

In my own life and in yours.

And that's a good thing.

What are some other breakthrough innovations?  Under what circumstances did they occur?

Have the current economic difficulties opened doors to your dreams sooner than you had anticipated?

Lessons Learned from Katie Couric

If successful women build portable skills, and if journalistic chops like those of Katie Couric are ostensibly portable, why has her stint at CBS been such a debacle?

And within the context of ‘daring to dream', is there a lesson to be learned?

As we try and answer this question, there's a framework known as jobs to be done developed by Professor Clayton M. Christensen that I think can be useful.  Rather than trying to understand the typical viewer's characteristics (age, gender, for example), the ‘jobs to be done' framework focuses instead on what job a viewer needs done or what problem she needs solved, and who or what can she hire to do that job.

For example, in Caitlin Flanagan's piece A Woman's Place – Katie Couric's Long Day's Journey into Evening, Flanagan writes that the job that women with small children need done on weekday mornings is “adult conversation”.

When they tuned into Katie Couric on The Today Show, they were hiring Ms. Couric to help fill the time during “one of the most psychologically complex and lonely–and most emotionally fulfilling–times of their lives; their tenure as mothers to small children.”


However, the very same women (the “typical viewer”) who had hired Ms. Couric in the mornings who have nothing but time, time that must be filled, endured, killed — is the person who is in a race against the clock by early evening…

At nine o’clock in the morning, Katie was the personification of The Today Show in its perfected form: not just a television program, but a cheery marker of time, a blessed imposition of structure and order on the disquieting entropy of life at home with children.  But at 6:30 in the evening, she’s a drag….Just one more person who wants something from you…nagging you to be interested—really, really interested—in Anbar province.

The problem that stay-at-home moms with small children need solved (not enough time, too much conversation) in the evening is diametrically opposed to the problem they need solved (too much time, not enough adult conversation) in the morning.

Katie Couric was the right person to solve the morning problem.

At night she has been all wrong.


We can learn some great lessons from Ms. Couric's career.  For example:

When you or I are thinking about starting a new business (whether an Etsy shop or large corporation) or a new job, what problem will we be helping people solve? What job will they be hiring our product to do?

Does the problem that we want to solve for people play to our strengths? If not, is there a job that needs to be done that does?

What do you do if there's a mismatch between the job you were hired to do and the job you want to do?

In your relationships, what job are your loved ones hiring you to do?  And you them?


Related posts:

Now the News: Couric Still Isn't One of the Boys

HBR – How Star Women Build Portable Skills

Play to Your Strengths

What is Your Dream?

Asking and Answering the Big Questions

Asking and Answering the Big Questions

I recently attended the last day of Professor Clayton Christensen's fall semester class at Harvard Business School.

In his final minutes with eighty of the world's best and brightest 25-35 year-olds, there was so much that Professor Christensen could have used his bully pulpit to say. Interestingly he chose to focus not on building and sustaining a successful enterprise, as he had done all semester, but rather on building and sustaining a happy life.

Paraphrasing Dr. Christensen's remarks, “In just a few months you will graduate from Harvard Business School, and embark on what to many, including yourselves, will be prestigious, lucrative, high profile careers. But if you want to also have happy lives, you need to know the purpose of your life.”

Photo courtesy of Jorge Antonio, istockphoto

He concluded class by encouraging the students to take the time, even if it's between 11 and 12 each night, as he did some thirty years ago, while he himself was in graduate school, to figure out their ‘who they are', and ‘what they are meant to do.'

There was a tear or two.

In Howard Gardner's groundbreaking theory on multiple intelligences, he outlines eight different type of intelligences. The first two, logical-mathematical and linguistic, aptitudes most valued by our society, are no doubt strengths of HBS students.

But what of kinesthetic, interpersonal, musical, naturalist, spatial, perhaps most importantly, existential intelligence — to make meaning of our life — the intelligence to which I believe Dr. Christensen was referring?

Many of us do not have graduate degrees, including myself. Even fewer have degrees from an Ivy League school.

Which is why I found Dr. Christensen's words so encouraging.

Because to be existentially intelligent, even credentialed, we don't need a degree, we just need to know how to ask and answer the really big questions, like — what's our story meant to be? How do we become the hero of our story? The hero of support in others' stories?

Which intelligences do you possess?

Have you ever considered yourself existentially intelligent?

What is your story meant to be?

Will you resolve to be the hero of your story?

And the hero of support in others' stories?

Related posts:

Seeing With New Eyes
Play to Your Strengths
What We Can Learn From TLC’s “I’ve Got Nothing to Wear”
What I Learned About Seeing from My Glasses
Rock Climbing and Rethinking our Competence

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