Will You Measure Your Life
By: Clayton Christensen
Help From Harvard Business School..
this is not our usual fare, reviewing a book on how to measure your life.
But it was worth our time and I think it will be worth yours too. Clayton
Christensen (with co-authors James Allworth and Karen Dillon) is a professor
at Harvard Business School (HBS) and a five-time recipient of the McKinsey
Award for best Harvard Business Review article.
for this book comes from Christensen’s traditional end of the year
lecture to students in his HBS class. Life moves fast for the best and
the brightest at HBS and Christensen admits it is not easy to get them
to slow down enough to listen to things like how to measure your life.
But it is crucial, even more so than the management education side of
This is a different
kind of self-help book. The twist is that Christensen uses business and
management theories to help explain things like happiness and success
in life and family.
For example, one
of the most important things we can do is establish a purpose to our life.
Christensen, in good business speak, argues that we first need to establish
a “likeness” for what we want our life to look like. Then
we need “commitment” to actually carry this out and finally,
we need “metrics” to measure how we are doing. I realize this
kind of thinking may sound a bit rigid or strange to some, but it does
actually work. Instead of the traditional ‘follow these five rules’
and you will succeed, you get a framework to inject your own personal
circumstances into. (I will let you read the book to find out Christensen’s
purpose of life and how he measures it.)
There are interesting sections on happiness, values, self-esteem and establishing
a culture for your life and family. All very interesting. I will mention
here a couple of detours Christensen takes while dealing with the bigger
issues of measuring life. The first detour is education and why so many
schoolchildren are unmotivated to learn. If you are trying to sell a product
a crucial first question to ask is, what was this thing “hired”
to do? Once you understand the reasons customers are buying you can more
easily tweak the product or design new ones. So what is the education
system hired to do today? According to Christensen children need two things
to be motivated to learn. They need to feel successful and they need to
have friends. So education needs to incorporate how to make kids feel
successful and how to let them do this with their friends. If the system
can achieve this then the customer, the student, will buy and the learning
light will switch on.
A second tidbit is why is it so difficult to hire people? Research has
shown that even successful organizations with very smart people and very
smart applicants are successful with only about one third of their hires.
The other 60% to 70% are mistakes or less than ideal. What is the problem
here? Christensen feels that we are not born with the “right stuff”
or super talents. Instead we hone our abilities and the best testing ground
for this is when we experience extreme stress and setbacks. When hiring,
managers would do well to focus on how candidates handled the less than
successful times in their lives.
This book has a lot of good stuff and at a time when everything seems
to be moving faster and where we have less and less time to think about
the really big picture, it is a good read.