HBR Dream: “Disrupt Yourself”

One of my dreams came true this month; I published in the Harvard Business Review magazine.

The article titled Disrupt Yourself applies Clayton Christensen‘s disruptive innovation frameworks apply to career disruption, and includes the stories of Dave Blakely, Liz Brown, Heather Coughlin, Martin Crampton, Alex McClung, Sabina Nawaz, Adam Richardson, and Gregory Sorensen.  Accompanying the article is a 3-minute video and a companion piece by global recruiter Claudio Fernandez-Araoz Why I Like People with Unconventional Resumes.

Due to article length, several fascinating stories were cut, including those of Saul Kaplan, Chief Catalyst at the Business Innovation Factory, Christine Koh, founder of Boston Mamas, and author of the forthcoming Minimalist Parenting, and finally cancer researcher Dr. Steven Curley.

You can read them below.

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If you want to succeed, rather than travel worn paths of accepted success, find new paths. – John D. Rockefeller

After early career success as a manager at Eli Lilly, Saul Kaplan became bored and changed paths to become a consultant where he was stimulated by new assignments, travel and a variety of roles. After twenty years as a road warrior consultant, Kaplan felt the pull of a new challenge – the public sector. He took a dramatic course change, focusing on his local community, and worked first in business development in Rhode Island, eventually ending up on the governor’s cabinet as an economic advisor. From there Kaplan went on to found the enormously successful Business Innovation Factory where as a self-proclaimed “innovation junkie,” he is constantly in the thick of new ideas and cutting-edge business ingenuity.  Kaplan says, “I saw too many people making

[career] choices based on money, stature or title.  I knew if I stayed on a steep learning curve, I would do my best work, which would create high-profile jobs, and I would make money over the long span of my career.”

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Christine Koh (@bostonmamas) built a respected career as a music and brain scientist in academia, then decided to change course for a more flexible and multi-faceted working life.  She founded and edits Boston Mamas, a stylish online resource for families in the Boston area; she put her artistic skills to work and created a graphic design firm, Posh Peacock; her passion for communicating has led her to freelance writing and editing, with her book “Minimalist Parenting” slated for publication in 2013. Christine has been recognized as a top mom blogger and featured in multiple major media outlets for both her writing and design work. She had a good job as a researcher and professor in academia, but by disrupting herself, Christine has been able to very successfully use her innate talents to bridge previously untapped and emerging markets and achieve a greater level of personal fulfillment.

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There are different permutations of disruptive strengths.  Take Dr. Steven Curley, a cancer researcher at M.D. Anderson Medical School in Houston.  A well-regarded physician, Curley understands there are clear processes for vetting research.  Priority is given to the work of other academics.  For Curley, playing to his disruptive strengths meant changing his processes and even priorities, and listening to John Kanzius, a radio and TV engineer, who imagined a cancer treatment utilizing non-invasive radio frequency waves.   As an accomplished surgeon and scientist, Curley could have dismissed Kanzius as a dilettante at best, a crackpot at worst, who first demonstrated his ideas using pie pans and hot dogs.  Dr. Curley’s disruptive strength was a willingness to abandon established practices in his field and go with his gut. Because of Curley’s ability to ignore his “company culture,” he is now pursuing an innovative cancer treatment based on Kanzius’ research.

P.S. Thank you again to my fantastic editors at Harvard Business Review, Sarah Green and Alison Beard for making this dream a reality.

Chrysula Winegar | Oh My Goodness, I Left My Voice on the Bus

Chrysula Winegar is a graduate of the University of London, UK, with a Masters in Organizational Behavior focused on the relationship between organizations (work) and families.  Her undergraduate degree was a Bachelors of Economics, from the University of Queensland, in her hometown of Brisbane, Australia. In late 2004, she left the Estee Lauder Companies, where she was International Marketing Director with the Aveda Corporation for 5 years, to be a full-time mother — and take over what was formerly her husband Warren Winegar's art consultancy business.  Chrysula is the mother of two irascible and brilliant daughters and two witty and zen sons who make all the rest of the things she has done with her life look like she was slacking.

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I hunger to be understood.  I think it is a very human desire, perhaps even need.  Once the food, shelter, clothing and love requirements have been met, it’s pretty much up there for me.   I define this in the context of dialogue: listening, receiving, speaking – an interaction of understanding and being understood.

Perhaps one of the reasons I struggle in my mothering is that my children are too young to give thought as to who I am. They (there are four of them, from 8 months to almost seven yrs) have little awareness of anyone but themselves. It is a times and seasons thing.  I know that.  It does not make it any easier.

Chrysula hugh kiss

Courtesy:  Andi Pitcher  

I wanted to stay home full-time with my children.  My mother sometimes was not able to and sometimes did not want to: both are reasons I respect.  My husband and I discussed it at length.  He was home for a time with our eldest two children whilst growing his business and I took on the role of primary bread-winner.  For some families it works.  It did not for us.

It's not that I don't enjoy corporate life.  I do.  And I am good at it.  However, particularly in the USA, I find it a limiting framework when you want to do anything out of the ordinary: have a family; extensively travel; care for a parent; dip in and out of the workforce for any old reason just to experience life.  There is a rigidness, both culturally and legislatively, that makes truly flexible work-life balance in corporate settings difficult in this country.  In fact, the day after I was offered my dream job (in another city) I resigned.

Most days, being at home is enough.  I have amazing children. I know you do too.  Or your nieces and nephews or friends’ children are incredible. I was never this smart at these ages.  Never this spiritually connected.   Certainly never this interesting.  I love being my children's mother.  A few years into being at home full-time however, I realized something.  I did not feel heard.

Balance Source:  Flickr

Partnering with my husband for eight years in his private art consultancy and now running that business fully on my own has helped me feel heard.  I love beautiful things and I love sharing them with others.  Art has the capacity to speak without language, to fill voids of which we are not aware.  I am privileged to have access to so much visual conversation. But, it's behavior, people, words that make me feel alive — that haven't somehow left my voice, disembodied, on a bus aimlessly trolling the streets of New York.

A few years ago I had a letter to the editor published in the New York Times.  It was an incredible moment.  In just a few sentences, I was able to express things that had been on my mind for over a year.  The act of publishing connected me to thousands of others thinking the same thoughts; and even better, to thousands more to whom those thoughts had not occurred.  I felt like I had begun a conversation with New York.

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From my early twenties, I have been intrigued by the relationship between organizations and families.   There is a consultancy business in the works eventually and a PhD thesis being constructed in my mind.  I recently realized though, that I do not need the fully-fledged second business and the prefix Dr. just yet.  What I need is to be part of the conversation.  What I hunger for is to participate, even at the fringes, in the topics I feel passionate about.  In Whitney Johnson’s words, “no major commitment of time or capital, but on the periphery — disruptive.”  Love that.  In other words, putting myself ‘out there’.

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Blogging and social networking allow me to do just that.  I started a blog titled Work. Life. Balance.  On my blog, I can give free reign to the thoughts that have been bubbling away for years.  On Twitter I can participate by sound bite.  And get access to all the data and discussion I need.  I can read/listen as much or as little as my other responsibilities allow.  These tools provide that sense of engagement, of participation, of dialogue – especially when both friends and strangers give back through their often profound and intimate comments.  I am part of a rich conversation.  I am listening, plugged in to the research, the debate, the buzz. And I have things to say.  Oh boy, do I ever.

In the meantime, my older two children are becoming more interesting.  It is part of the development curve.  Their awareness of the thoughts of others is beginning to develop.  As they expand their capacity for social interaction, I am able to engage with them on richer levels.  We all benefit.  I loved them as babies and toddlers and pre-schoolers.   When we are not fighting (!), I truly adore them as they learn and grow through these next stages.   As I have listened and tried to understand their emerging voices, their attempts to listen and understand me, enable my own voice.   The first inklings of their wanting to understand me are a gift:  a recognition that we are starting to develop real two-way relationships.

And, in the convergence of reading, writing, speaking, listening, I am finding a flow of authenticity and personal truth.  My family life and professional interests are merging.  As they integrate, I feel heard.

I have my voice back.

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Have you left your voice on the bus?  Are you ready to get it back?

Have you ever considered that voice is much more than speaking, but listening, responding, speaking, being heard as well — a conversation?

Chrysula speaks of blogging and twittering as a means of finding her voice.  Several years ago I went to a BlogHer conference, and came home and wrote What If?  So many women discovering their voice.  It was compelling.

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that takes root at the low-end of a market or where there is no market, and therefore little competition.  That is the beauty of blogging/twittering.  Low cost.  No major commitment of capital or time — affording us the luxury of patiently dis-covering our voice.

Work. Life. Balance.

Speak.
Listen.
Voice.


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