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.


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.”


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.


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.

HBR | What Magic Power Would You Choose?

Found in a seven year old girl's journal (all spellings preserved):

“If I were a super hero my super power would be invisbility because if a bad guy came I could turn invibel and fite him with out him seeing me.” 

Do you view invisibility as a powerful cloak to protect you, or a major setback to your career?

In my post today at Harvard Business Review, I talk about how invisibility has been both a help and a hindrance in my career. I hope you'll read, share, and comment.

And, my friend Kathy Caprino posted an interview with me today on Forbes. Check it out!

HBR Blog: Thank You for Doing Your Job

Here's my latest HBR post.

As you have surmised, gratitude has been on my mind these past few months.  Not because it was a good or nice thing to do, but because I needed to do it in order to be happier; it is making a difference.


In that vein, I am continually appreciative that you read and comment on both this and the HBR blog.

You do it brilliantly.

Thank you.

HBR – How Star Women Build Portable Skills

In the ‘What is your dream?‘ questionnaire, one of the questions posed is — What is the biggest challenge (personal or professional) I've overcome?  Who would I be had I not surmounted this?

Because one of my most daunting professional challenges was working on Wall Street, I was intrigued when my friend Stacey Petrey referred me to Professor Boris Groysberg's article ‘How Star Women Build Portable Skills‘, a study which states that women are generally more successful than men in moving from one job to another because of the portability of our skills.


Groysberg states “women have learned how to build external networks of clients, associates, and other professionals outside the organizations – that remain intact when they depart…Not because women set out to do this, but because they

[women] are often marginalized and have to fight institutional barriers, so they build external networks out of necessity.”

I found Professor Groysberg's case study so affirming that I sent him an e-mail telling him — yes, I really am trying to walk my talk of getting in the game).  This contact serendipitously led to an interview by Rob Weisman at the Boston Globe for his article on Groysberg's findings.


Can you relate to this as much as I can?

You're trying to figure out how to get something important done, whether personally or professionally, and it's just not happening.

So you get creative — you buck convention — and you get it done (whether at work, in the community, your children's school), and in the process you find you've developed one of your greatest strengths.

What is that strength?

After you read Groysberg's case study, and Weisman's article, what would you add?

What thing have you tried to get done for which traditional channels were blocked, so you created a workaround solution?  What ‘portable skills' did you acquire in the process?

Would you agree that there are parallels to Psyche's 2nd Task of gathering the fleece?

Have any of you read Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Solution?  Isn't it true that as we are trying to get something done, we are in effect the innovator vs. the incumbent?

Related posts:
Second Thoughts on Psyche's 2nd Task

Rachel vs. Leah: Reclaiming Our Power to Dream

Book Club: There's a Business in Every Woman

What if Madeleine L'Engle Hadn't Dared to Dream?

Valuing What Women Do

Contact Us

Fill out this form and we will follow up to create a customized plan to help you build a smart growth organization.

Media & Press Inquiries

including requesting Whitney as a guest on your podcast

Media & Press Inquiries arrow_forward

Gain insight into growth, adaptability and agility

Download our free resources outlining the Accelerants of Growth—including books, podcasts and TEDtalks to help you move up your S Curve of Learning.