Writing this column for the past several weeks has been hard for me. How I wish it were the only thing I could do. But scrambling to , I’m forced to attend to other matters. They are namely matters that enable me to have a roof over my head, but, as a result, give me little time to focus on global entrepreneurs and global innovations in the detailed and analytical manner both deserve. As such, I’m forced to choose between quantity (getting material out) and quality (getting the story right). For me, quality wins. After reading Clay Christensen’s new book, I’m relieved to know that’s spot-on.
Christensen, a professor at Harvard School, rose to fame with a book that looks at how companies stay cutting-edge and relevant through disruption. It caught the attention of many Silicon Valley stars, most prominently former chief Andy Grove, who famously asked Christensen to talk about what disruptive innovation meant for Intel. “But instead of telling him what to think,” Christensen writes in his latest book’s first chapter, “I taught him how to think. He then reached a bold decision about what to do, on his own.” strives for a similar goal. Only Christensen and his co-authors, James Allworth and Karen Dillon, hope that goal is a worthy and fulfilling life.
“Finding happiness” is the header titles for the respective sections of the approximately 200-page book (except the last one which he calls “Staying Out of Jail”). That is its only flaw. Though Christensen presents his material in self-help jargon, it avoids the maudlin and illusionary comfort most in the “you can do it too!” genre render. There is no focus on explanations or exceptionalism here. Christensen anchors on the opposite premise: you’re not special. Life, it points out, while rewarding, is hard. So too must how we grapple with it. Christensen boils that down to accepting, working with and appreciating what we have. Purpose and process, he says, are key factors.
What it argues for is hard work, which is harder than you may think. Today’s world provides too many scapegoats and shortcuts. That’s what is trying to stop. Or else Christensen says you’ll be “set off in the wrong direction.” He uses his former HBS classmate Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling as an example. “When his entire career unraveled with his conviction on multiple federal felony charges relating to Enron’s financial collapse, it not only shocked me that he had gone wrong, but how spectacularly he had done so.” That, Christensen says, was probably a result of “just this once..” or marginal thinking.
hits bookstands tomorrow.