Photo: By betsyweber on Flickr
Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, one of the world’s leading business thinkers best known for The Innovator’s Dilemma, has just put out another book, “How Will You Measure Your Life?”He uses business case studies — like how the Honda Super Cub took over America — to show people how they can achieve personal success.
See our interview with Christensen below, edited for clarity.
On how to be successful
If you don’t have any idea of what kind of person you want to become, it’s all pointless. You really need to figure out, “What’s the purpose of my life? What kind of person does God want me to become? How do I
need to invest my time and energy?” Without that you’re in a boat without a rudder.
And not go to jail like his former HBS classmate Jeffrey Skilling
Just hoping that you’ll become a certain kind of person isn’t enough. Hold to your standards all of the time. Every time you have an opportunity where you can depart — even “just this once under this circumstance”— well, your life is just an unending stream of “extenuating circumstances.” Everyone decides “just this once.”
To become the kind of person you want to become, you’ve got to have discipline. It’s easier to keep to your standards 100 per cent of the time versus 98 per cent of the time.
On how to manage your time
Most people have never thought through how they’re going to allocate their time. You need to make a decision in advance. I never work on Saturday. I don’t ever work on Sunday either. If you make that decision on a macro level once, when all the incremental decisions arise on an incremental basis, life is easier.
In a company you have a lot of different businesses. As a manager you ask, “Which products are we going to invest our capital into?” It’s called the resource allocation process. In our personal lives we have a lot of businesses going on. I have a profession, I’m a father, a spouse, a good member of my community. How much of my time and energy can I allocate to each of those things? What I allocate becomes the strategy I have for my family, and everything else.
We have a bias to allocate based on short-term results. Companies focus on short-term returns vs. long-term returns. People under-invest in family because it doesn’t pay off until the long tem.
On why people shouldn’t try to be Steve Jobs
In business you have very successful companies like Apple, and companies that want to be successful want to emulate Apple. People have an idol they want to be like and try to follow what the idols did. But when you do, you find out you’re not very successful and you’re not very happy. You try to copy these models, and it doesn’t yield successful results. The key is not to figure out what the best people are doing and try to emulate it — rather, figure out what causes people and companies to be successful.
It’s easier if you really believe there’s a God. What kind of person does God want me to become? What are those characteristics? … If you believe in God, you believe you’re going to be judged. If you don’t believe there’s a God, you’ll still be judged. Do you want to live a life so that when you die, whoever knew you will quickly forget about you and never refer to you again? Or will people refer to you with great admiration for years and years to come?
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