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How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton…
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How Will You Measure Your Life? (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Clayton M. Christensen, Karen Dillon, James Allworth

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179466,229 (3.61)4
Member:aegan
Title:How Will You Measure Your Life?
Authors:Clayton M. Christensen
Other authors:Karen Dillon, James Allworth
Info:HarperBusiness (2012), Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen (2012)

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Clayton Christensen is known to many through his bestselling business classic: The Innovator’s Dilemma. As a long-time Harvard Business School Professor, he is well-respected in business circles globally for bringing valuable perspectives to business growth and evolution theories and practices – particularly disruption and innovation.

After the many bestselling business books and articles that Christensen has written throughout his career, this particular book, How Will You Measure Your Life, was somewhat of a departure from his usual oeuvre. The genesis is a series of talks / conversations that Christensen had with his final year Harvard business students about how they would start and go on with their personal and professional lives. After his 2010 cancer diagnosis, his own sense of the relevance of those conversations was heightened. The state of the economy at the time also meant that many students were questioning their possible professional choices post-graduation with more uncertainty and doubt. Their biggest question was how to find a career that would be both meaningful and satisfying. Christensen and his co-authors found this to also be a worrying question for professionals and business leaders across all different career stages. And, while there are many self-help books out there with plenty of anecdotal advice, Christensen was not able to find any resources with universal theories that could be applied to most situations or questions. This is what prompted him to start the classroom conversations, and eventually led to the book.

A few words about the co-authors. James Allworth was a student of Christensen’s at the time the latter’s cancer was diagnosed and participated in the aforementioned class discussions. Karen Dillon was the Harvard Business Review Editor at the same time and had been working with Christensen to turn the class conversations into a Harvard Business Review article. Both have gone on to other things since the book came out, but, no doubt, taken its many lessons with them for life.

Let me now say what this book is not. It is not a deep philosophy text, despite the title. Nor is it a self-help book or a how-to guide. And, for those who are familiar with Christensen’s religious faith (he is a Mormon), this book is secular enough to appeal to non-religious readers.

The best summary description of the book is that it is a distillation of the top 10-15 business theories that Christensen is known for influencing and / or creating and their application to the personal domains of life and career management. An interesting approach. Rather a coming of full circle from the early management and business theories by the likes of Peter Drucker, Edgar Schein, et al, which they had created by applying and adapting the more universal life philosophies. Christensen wrote that he felt this framing approach of applying business theories to life worked for him and his students for a couple of reasons:

1) The disruption and innovation theories had been applied across various types of businesses and over time – making them tried, tested, proven, valid, somewhat universal.

2) The types of business problems we deal with daily are similar to the types of problems we deal with in our personal lives (and vice versa, as the earlier business thinkers showed us). Whether it is about prioritizing needs, setting goals, dealing with finite / scarce resources, managing opportunities and threats, we do these things both in life and in business.

The book is structured around the key business theories, starting with why we should care about theories at all and explaining the basics of the two core ones – disruption and innovation. Then, there are chapters on various other theories like incentives, motivation, deliberate and emergent strategies, discovery-driven planning, strategy development, capital management, entrepreneurship evolution, managing stall points, jobs-based segmentation, insourcing / outsourcing, disruptive growth, new ventures, creativity, culture, marginal cost thinking, etc.

With each chapter, the authors give an overview of the particular theory, along with key business examples, and then describe how the theory works in the personal context with a couple of examples from Christensen’s own personal experiences. Aside from the latter, there are really no other personal anecdotes. The aim is to ensure that readers grasp the theory fully first, understand how it applies to personal life, then do their own thinking and application for their individual situations. You can search the Harvard Business Review archives for articles on any of these theories, if so inclined, or read this quick Business Insider overview of all of them.

The theory that resonated most for me was towards the end – on marginal cost thinking. Christensen recounts an anecdote when, as an Oxford student, he decided he could not play basketball on Sundays as that was his time for church and other religious activities. As he was the starting center, this was a big problem for his coach and team, particularly as they had a championship game coming up. Christensen decided not to resort to the “just this once” rationale that most of us would have done, given similar circumstances. His belief is that, if we allow ourselves to cross that line even once, we open ourselves up to doing so again and again in other situations as well. He summarizes it as follows:

"It’s easier to hold your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold them 98% of the time. The boundary – your personal moral line – is powerful because you don’t cross it; if you have justified doing it once, there’s nothing to stop you doing it again. Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time."

Many of us give in to the “just this once” syndrome daily in many micro-decisions without too much thought of the longer-term impact. So, Christensen wanted this to be the biggest takeaway for readers: have a sense of purpose and commit to it – not 98% of the time but 100% of the time. And, while this is not a new idea, his articulation about his own thought process and approach to doing just that is compelling. If you buy and read this book for this section alone, it will be money worth spent.

After reading this book, I was reminded of another one that I had read years ago, very early in my own career, when I did not have professors or mentors like Christensen to guide me: The Highest Goal by Michael Ray. Ray is a Stanford Professor and, for 25 years or so, taught a course called “Personal Creativity in Business” to Stanford Business grad students, one of whom was Jim Collins, author of that other bestseller, Good to Great. Collins wrote a wonderful introduction to Ray’s book – a glowing former student’s tribute.

Back to Ray’s book. Like Christensen, he also exhorted his students to find and commit to their true, higher purpose. Slightly different angle, though. He described how to discover that core, higher personal goal using stories, reflections and exercises. No, this isn’t quite the “woo-woo” stuff you might be thinking now. The most important part of the book was how he advised on the adoption of key heuristics as life credos or “live-withs” as he called them, to be able to achieve that highest goal. A heuristic is like a mental shortcut that helps reduce the cognitive load of making decisions. Rules of thumb, one might call them. Daniel Kahneman also wrote about these extensively in his bestseller, Thinking Fast and Slow (another FAE Book of the Month that we’ll get to soon).

In a way, Christensen’s 10-15 business theories, because they’re now widely-known (though not necessarily well-understood or applied), are sort of his recommended version of heuristics to be applied to our personal and professional lives so that we can find our purpose and commit to it 100%.

So, in the end, whichever school of thought you subscribe to – life credos or business theories – both are based on, I believe, the need to identify our own particular set of heuristics to commit to and then honor that commitment 100%. Easier said than done, of course. Christensen’s slim volume might be a good way to get your thinking process started. But, you will need to invest a lot more time in that thinking process beyond merely reading for the book to be useful and impactful. If the business theory approach is not your bag, I recommend Ray’s book instead.

First published at: http://freeagenteconomics.com/2013/09/04/booknotes-how-will-you-measure-your-lif... ( )
  jennybhatt | Sep 5, 2013 |
Based on the lifelong learnings of the same thinker behind The Innovator's Dilemma, this work attempts to counterbalance most of the B-School curriculum with a thoughtful treatise on personal choices and ethics. I enjoyed how well Christeneon ties business strategy and economics to corporate culture and even family culture. For example, the lesson that "Companies focus too much on what they want to sell their customers, rather than what those customers really need," translates into a relationship lesson about figuring out what loved ones really need from you. There are similar lessons about the investment of time, process skills as a core capability, and effective culture. ( )
  jpsnow | Oct 31, 2012 |
I enjoyed this book. I avoid this kind of book, but this was great. It made me think of some aspects of my life and job that I can improve. It helped me to understand how what I am doing now will influence my future. The business theories he discussed were quite interesting. I would like to know more about them. I can't remember much about them because they were not treated in depth, but I know that I want to learn more! ( )
  Jeremy_Palmer | Sep 9, 2012 |
Takes his business theories and tries to map them to life. Interesting but lacked direction. Overall this audio is short with a few good ideas that will make you think. ( )
  GShuk | May 26, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clayton Christensenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allworth, Jamessecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dillon, Karensecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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On the last day of the course that I teach at Harvard Business School, I typically start by telling my students what I observed among my own business school classmates after we graduated.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062102419, Hardcover)

In 2010 world-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen gave a powerful speech to the Harvard Business School's graduating class. Drawing upon his business research, he offered a series of guidelines for finding meaning and happiness in life. He used examples from his own experiences to explain how high achievers can all too often fall into traps that lead to unhappiness.

The speech was memorable not only because it was deeply revealing but also because it came at a time of intense personal reflection: Christensen had just overcome the same type of cancer that had taken his father's life. As Christensen struggled with the disease, the question "How do you measure your life?" became more urgent and poignant, and he began to share his insights more widely with family, friends, and students.

In this groundbreaking book, Christensen puts forth a series of questions: How can I be sure that I'll find satisfaction in my career? How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness? How can I avoid compromising my integrity—and stay out of jail? Using lessons from some of the world's greatest businesses, he provides incredible insights into these challenging questions.

How Will You Measure Your Life? is full of inspiration and wisdom, and will help students, midcareer professionals, and parents alike forge their own paths to fulfillment.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Akin to The Last Lecture in its revelatory perspective following life-altering events, "How Will You Measure Your Life?" presents a set of personal guidelines that have helped the author find meaning and happiness in his life.

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