Clay Christensen is one of the world’s authorities on disruptive innovation. His book The Innovator’s Dilemma won the Global Business Book Award for the Best Business Book of the Year in 1997, and it went on to be one of the top selling business books for years. Recently, Professor Christensen teamed up with a former student, James Allworth and the editor of the Harvard Business Review, Karen Dillon to write How Will You Measure Your Life? It’s about applying business principles to create a better life.
You end your courses—and began this book—with a set of three fundamental “How can I be sure that…” questions. Can you give us some background of how your thinking led to these three specific questions?
Clay: The questions actually emerged from two of my experiences at Harvard Business School. The first was as a result of being a student here. Every five years, the school hosts reunions and it’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends. At our first reunion — five years out from graduation — everyone seemed to be so successful, prosperous and happy: the promise of our years at school seemed destined to pay off. But at subsequent reunions, things started to change. Cracks in that promise started to become apparent.
Now, I don’t want to mislead you — many of my classmates have gone on to incredible successes, have happy families and have raised wonderful children. But more of us than I would have hoped seemed to have made choices that haven’t led us to those outcomes. That led to the questions: how can I be sure that I find happiness in my career, find happiness in my relationships, and be sure that I live a life of integrity? Those seemed to be the questions that some of us had either never thought to ask, or had lost track of.
Now, with that as context, the second source was the class that I teach today at the Harvard Business School. Using the business theory that we’ve gone through all semester, I’ve enlisted my students to help answer—both for my benefit, and for theirs—the questions that so many of my classmates seemed to have lost track of.
One of my favorite authors is Andy Andrews, who always writes things from a very different perspective as anyone else. I have all of his books, and am always interested in his point of view.
One of his latest books is called How Do You Kill 11 Million People? I have to admit that I would have passed by the book if it weren’t for the author.
The new book is the story of the holocaust, but unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s also a very small book, which you can read in about fifteen or so minutes. But you will find that you are thinking about it for days afterward. It’s a book that just makes you give it to someone else and say, “Read this. I want to talk about it with you.”
The story is basically a question about how millions of people were killed by Hitler and the Nazis. Most of the time, they boarded trains with little resistance. Trains heading to concentration camps. I’ve heard directly from Holocaust survivors the horrors involved. Most of us have read books and seen movies depicting the events.
But I don’t know of anyone else who ever asked “Why? Why did they board the trains without fighting back?”
Joel Manby is the incoming CEO of SeaWorld and the former CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment. Herschend is the largest family owned theme park in the US owing 26 locations including Dollywood and Stone Mountain. If he looks familiar, you may recognize him from his appearance on CBS’ Undercover Boss.
Joel’s is the author of Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders, a book about practicing love at work. Talking about love at work may seem strange coming from a hard-charging executive who spent years in the automotive industry before joining Herschend. After reading this book, I could tell that Joel meant every word of it. Still, I had to start with the question about love at work.
This is a business book, but the title and the theme are all about Love. Joel, you were an executive at GM, Saturn and Saab. It’s all about metrics. Numbers. Results. But, you say no, Love Works. Tell me more about your transition from hard-hitting analytical executive to someone who sees love as a business success factor.
It’s still about metrics; the key question is which metrics? At HFE we measure all the standard business metrics including financial results, customer scores and employee scores. We all have to hit those numbers. In addition, we are also measured on HOW we go about hitting those numbers. We are all evaluated on the seven words outlined in Love Works. In fact, the top raises are given to those who hit both measurements; and all senior leaders are expected to be good at all of the above.
“Stick to your values in all circumstances.” –Joel Manby
How do you define personal success? Corporate success?
I define personal success as being consistent to my own personal mission statement: to love God and love others. I can achieve that in a number of personal endeavors; but feel blessed to be able to achieve it in a growing, profitable business. Corporate success should be defined the same way: ultimately, what is the mission statement of the company? Ours is to “create memories worth repeating.”
When I first met my now good friend Karin Slaughter several years ago, I’m not sure what I was expecting. All of her books are nail-biting thrillers.
The night before I met her, one of her books kept me up all night. Her expertise in crime scenes, forensics and police procedure is carefully woven into compelling stories designed to keep you turning pages. I guess I pictured a wild-eyed, half-crazed author with blood splattered on her shirt. Instead, I discovered someone who was warm, irreverent and spontaneously funny.
Karin’s writing talent regularly lands her at the top of the New York Times bestselling lists. Her many books have sold tens of millions of copies around the world.
Do you remember the Road Runner cartoon? Wile E. Coyote would be chasing Road Runner who would “beep, beep!” and manage to slip away. Always two steps ahead of the coyote, Road Runner just outmaneuvered him in every episode.
I remember when the coyote would run right off a cliff in pursuit. And he would dramatically just keep running on air, not realizing that he wasn’t on solid ground. Though it was predictable, you would see the sudden realization, the pause, the expression and then the inevitable fall.
As a kid, I identified with the road runner. We were outsmarting our opponent. We just laughed at that coyote. How could he be so stupid? Every single week, he repeated the same mistakes. How could you be running so fast that you don’t realize you just ran off a cliff?
I watched one of those old cartoons today, and I looked at it from a completely different perspective. Instead of identifying with the road runner, I saw the coyote with new empathy.