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.

The Business Model Innovation Factory

Several weeks ago, I bought a copy of The Business Model Innovation Factory, which according to NY Times bestselling author Dan Pink,  is a book about “how to take an innovation from a napkin sketch to market share,  and to create your own innovation factory.”

One of the first pieces of advice I give entrepreneurs is “iterate on your business model, being patient for growth, impatient for profits.”  Yet, I find that the term “business model” abstract, even nebulous.  Or as Kaplan writes,  “If you ask any 10 people in your organization to describe your current business model, will the answers be even close?” 

To get you started on consuming his ideas (and make it easy to participate in the giveaway!), here are some tweet-ready snippets:

“A business model is a story about how an organization creates, delivers and captures value.” -@skap5

“Business model innovators are inspiration accelerators.”-@skap5

“One of the most important tools for any business model innovator is storytelling.” – @skap5

“No one shares business model stories because they are taken for granted.” – @skap5

Law of disruption:  “Even Netflix is in danger of being netflixed.” – @skap5

“Using understandable language is essential to advancing new ideas and compelling action.” – @skap5

“Business model = How does your organization create value?  Deliver value? Capture value?”

Sustaining innovation:  “death by a 1,000 initiatives”. – @skap5

“A business model innovation factory is a platform, not a project.” – @skap5

“You want to business model innovation? Empower IT.” – @skap5

“You want business model innovation? See the world through the lens of the customer.” – @skap5

“Business model innovation is a team sport involving random collisions of unusual suspects.” – @skap5

“Business model innovation is a design process:  generative, experimental, iterative.” – @skap5

You want business model innovation?  Make systems-level thinking sexy.” – @skap5

“Innovators are less interested in climbing up learning curves than swinging like Tarzan from curve to curve.” @skap5

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