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| 5 minutes read

Clayton Christensen - how to enjoy business and life more

I was recommended a book recently “How will you measure your life” by a former senior partner, Nigel Jones, of Linklaters who now focuses on supporting other businesses and people to realise their potential. Sadly the author, Clayton, passed away only a few weeks back. There were some brilliant takeaways in the book and his wider work for life and business so I thought I would summarise a few of them that resonated:

1. See the world through the lens of your client 

Clayton tells a brilliant story about speaking to Intel to help with their future business planning. On page 10 he says “I know very little about Intel. The only thing I can do is to explain the theory first; then we can look at the company through the lens that the theory offers.” It is a brilliant reminder that whether it is a client or person, we must understand how they operate. As Clayton goes onto say “..instead of telling him what to think, I taught Jim how to think”

What I also like about this approach is that in life it doesn’t help to be judgemental of people since you really have no idea what they have gone through. 

2. Manage your career and others using motivation theory

The use of motivation theory (Frederick Herzberg) has two components - hygiene and motivation factors. As Clayton explains the hygiene factors will cause dissatisfaction if not done well. These are status, pay, work conditions or company policy. You then need to look at the motivation factors, these are the things that will deeply satisfy us. Examples include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, personal growth. The key thing to unlock here for yourself or others is that these come from within “intrinsic”. It is well worth considering this if you are a manager or indeed an individual. 

For example, I personally know that in my job it is not the pay that will get me repeatably excited, it is that ability to make a difference. That said, if the pay (hygiene factor) is not managed correctly it will likely dissatisfy me! On page 40 Clayton provides two quick paragraphs of what to ask yourself. This is worth reading alongside page 58 where he dives into the importance of testing assumptions “what assumptions have to prove true for you be happy in the choice you are contemplating?”

3. Have an emergent and deliberate strategy

This is perfectly applied to both your company and personal life. Having a well-planned business model or career is great and will likely be focused on several expected or anticipated opportunities. This would be called a deliberate strategy. When unanticipated problems or opportunities creep in, continuing on this plan can be dangerous if you are not willing to modify, back yourself or change the plan. 

However, when you set your course and unanticipated problems or opportunities occur that you subsequently take into account to modify your strategy, this is called an emergent strategy. 

You can interpret this as you wish, whether it applies to your business, a team or your personal career. The argument is to take an emergent strategy until all boxes are ticked and you choose to move to a deliberate focus. 

4. Invest appropriate resources into your strategy

Chapter 4 from page 62 goes further into the construction and execution of a strategy. Ultimately Clayton states that you must invest “the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy. In the end, a strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it’s effectively implemented”. 

In addition to this, we must consider the time frame of our expected gratification from pursuing a specific strategy. If this is short-term the business (or career) is often likely to fail. Finally, measurement of success needs to align, look out for how your team (especially sales) are compensated and whether it fits with your objectives.  

5. When do I invest in my relationships?

Clayton points out that the most important time to invest in building strong relationships is when it appears, at the surface, as if it’s not necessary. Another way to put this is "don’t start planting saplings when you need shade from trees".

6. Position your offering to be the solution to the get the job done

Clayton devised a theory about marketing/product development called “the job to be done”. This involves looking at jobs that arise in people’s lives and then developing products and the experiences required to get that job done. 

Its this need to get the job done that pulls customers to hire you. I think a key point here is the entire experience needs to fit with the job to be done not just the offering itself. He references ikea in the book and having spent some of the weekend there I can see exactly how they have nailed that! 

7. What factors determine what a company can and cannot do?

Clayton explains that these fall into three buckets: resources, processes, and priorities

The way your resources (i.e. people) interact, talk and coordinate are your processes. Resources appear on a balance sheet, processes cannot really be seen like that. Here is the bit that resonates with me, if a company has strong processes in place, managers have flexibility about which employees they put on which assignments - because the process will work regardless of who performs it. Do you have that in your company? The third point around priorities links back to your strategy, communicating the priorities of a company across the resources is critical so everyone sings from the same sheet. 

8. Who do you hire in the future?

I have long been a big supporter of finding people who had experiences in their lives that have shaped them along the way. I will always have a natural bias towards athletes but that isn’t to say I lean toward the most decorated. It was good to read the work of Professor Morgan McCall who explains that the best people have “their abilities developed and shaped by experiences in life. A challenging job, a failure in leading a project, an assignment in a new area of the company - all those things become ‘courses’ in the school of experiences”

And finally, how do you develop a purpose (more insight on page 195)? 

This is arguably one of the most important things to have in place whether that is for a happy life or a successful business and team.

Likeness: This is what you, employees, leaders, etc want your life/business to have become by the end of the path it is on.

Commitment: You, your employees, executives, supporters must have a commitment to the likeness you are trying to create

Metrics: These are there for you, employees, managers, etc to measure progress. 

Further to the explanation of deliberate vs emergent. A purpose must be deliberate however the way you get there will often be emergent. 


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