Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M Christensen, Allworth and Karen Dillon

HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE? - finding fulfilment using lessons from some of the world's greatest businesses (2012) by CLAYTON M CHRISTENSEN, JAMES ALLWORTH & KAREN DILLON, HarperCollinsPublishers UK, p 221

We have an inherent instinct and desire to live longer, healthier and wealthier.  During the course of performing our duties we try to achieve our set goals and in cases where goals are not set, take up things and activities into our stride and perform our best in the interest of the stakeholders.  This is an ideal thinking and many a times we ignore this ideal expectation and pursue something which is not so desirable of us. This is what makes our life miserable and we regret later but at that time it is already too late.  Clayton M Christensen, along with James Allworth and Karen Dillon brings out this book entitled How Will You Measure Your Life to get us focused and to let us introspect whether we are on the right path. 

A personal experience sharing style of presenting this book through the real life examples of business organisations make this book engrossing, interesting and convincing. It is sheer a coincidence that I picked up this book just after reading Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma, who is a regular columnist with Wall Street Journal without really having any clue as to Clayton while in his early 20s wanted to become the editor of WSJ.  Though Clayton could not become the editor of WSJ, he chose his career otherwise.

The book is written in a very simple, easy to understand, and common self-help book style though it refers to some of the most cited researches like Michael Jensen's Agency/Incentive Theory, Herzberg's Hygiene theory, McCall's Right Stuff, Todd Risley & Pretty Hart’s contribution on Talking amongst Parents and children, etc.

The book is divided in three sections as Finding Happiness in Your Career, Finding Happiness in You, and Staying Out of Jail.  These three sections are basically titled out of his personal oath to the students while they leave the college.  Each section has chapters on different related fields.  Management theories have been explained briefly in a layman’s style and their application in organisations and then in personal lives are elaborated so convincingly that one starts thinking of those theories as the ones primarily meant for individuals and not organisations.  His personal recount of the events in his personal life makes the book more authentic and authoritative.  Clayton has been advisor and consultant for many firms and government agencies and he is primarily known for the concept of 'disruptive innovation'.  He has been quite successful in documenting his interactions with CEO's and others and through that reaching out to lot of life lessons.  The examples of Andy Grove of Intel, Steve Jobs of Apple, Sam Walton of Walmart, Nolan Archibald of Black & Decker, are well placed.  His experiences with the students and their queries further establishes the link between theory and practice and reiterates his conviction on seeing through his students fulfilling their life goals.  Though the book is authored by three of them, but as the first author, Clayton writes the book and narrates many incidents in the first person. Hence I too took this liberty of mentioning ‘him’ and not ‘they’.

The strategies adopted by Honda while making an entry into American market (big bike segment) to compete with HarleyDavidson through Triumph and then shifting to introduce SuperCub (small bike) is elaborated through the landscape of emergent and deliberate strategy which is often applicable and used in personal lives.  That’s where his philosophy of giving more importance to JOURNEY than DESTINATION becomes relevant and important.  In fact, I have always been sharing this with my students and friends.  Personally I too strongly feel that it is the journey which is more important than the destination.  At times during the course of walking on a path we tend to change or shift our destination and that keep happening all through life.  It is true for organizations as well.  I wish there is some hard core research in this direction to further validate this thinking.

The organizational examples of Walmart's location selection, Disney's failure in Paris (because of wrong assumptions and calculations), Sonosite's introduction of ultrasound machine (its excellent features, usability, marketing, selling and wrong provision of incentives), Motorola's sponsoring Iridium Satellite Network for inventing mobile phones, Sweden's IKEA furniture store and its unique approach, Dell’s outsourcing to ASUS (price of overdependence), ENRON’s debacle, Marginal Thinking at Netflix as against Blockbuster, are some of the real organizational stories which could be helpful in problem solving in personal lives as well. 

The emphasis on Resources, Processes and Priorities is well explained in the book and their interrelationship as practiced in the organizations is illustrated through examples.  The authors have quite successfully linked their applicability in the personal lives as to learning, knowledge, actions, choices, decision making etc.  I really liked him quoting an old saying 'find a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life'. So philosophical yet so practical.  The book emphasises on leading a good family life through inculcating good values in children so that they learn to respect work and develop a sense of compassion for others.  It also helps in building strong culture in the family which helps one to make choices and take decisions at work places.    

Just This Once is something which really got my attention as many times we get carried away with compromising on some of our personal principles just for some minor gains or under environmental pressures.  As mentioned, it really becomes the beginning point for a series of compromises.  Clayton warns the readers and tells that 100% of the time is easier than 98% of the time as he mentions one of his own example of getting pressure on playing on Sunday, the day he keeps aside for Sunday service (committed to God). Ultimately he takes a decision otherwise and does not compromise on taking just this once as told to him by his fellow players. Towards the end of the book in the epilogue, the authors discuss the importance of Purpose and its three important components – the person I want to become (likeness), becoming committed, and finding the right metric. The examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Dalai Lama are well cited here. I wished that the book had a reference section at the end and some suggested readings with it which could have guided the reader further.

As the hypothesis on the primacy of life satisfaction over job satisfaction and the other way is getting tested and retested, questioned and re-questioned, there seems to be no two opinions about one simple thinking and practice that job satisfaction and life satisfaction are interrelated.  At this time this book certainly makes a mark, though it does not directly talk of positive psychology, subjective well being, hedonic treadmill, etc, however the book leaves a strong imprint in the practical literature relating life satisfaction with job satisfaction.  Clayton successfully sails through the journey from disruptive innovation, to the innovator's dilemma, to prescribing how to measure life, especially when he cannot cogently verbalise his concerns and contributions due to his health.  I wish him great health ahead and expect another bestseller from him or/and his team on the modern ways of measuring life.  Isn't it important?
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