Tag: Clay Christensen

Why Can’t Someone Be Taught Until They’re Ready To Learn?

Clay Christensen is best known as the author of The Innovator’s Dilemma. He’s also the author of a new book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, which has some wonderful insights (see excerpts here and here).

The founder of 37Signals, Jason Fried, recently spent some time with Christensen and gained a key insight into why we can’t be taught until we’re ready to learn. Simply put, if you stop asking questions, you’ll stop learning.

Spending time with Clay leads to lots of interesting insights, but for me, there was one that stood out among all the others.

You’ve probably heard it said that someone can’t be taught until they’re ready to learn. I’ve heard it said that way too. It makes sense, and my experience tells me it’s mostly true. Why though? Why can’t someone be taught until they’re ready to learn?

Clay explained it in a way that I’ve never heard before and I’ll never forget again. Paraphrased slightly, he said: “Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question – you have to want to know – in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.”

What an insight.

Your Strategy Is Not What You Say It Is — Clayton Christensen

If you study the root causes of business disasters and management missteps, you’ll often find a predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. Many companies’ decision-making systems are designed to steer investments to initiatives that offer the most tangible returns, so companies often favor these and short-change investments in initiatives that are crucial to their long-term strategies.

In the words of Andy Grove, former chairman and chief executive officer of Intel: “To understand a company’s strategy, look at what they actually do rather than what they say they will do.” Real strategy—in companies and in our lives—is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about where we spend our resources. But as you’re living your life from day to day, how do you make sure you’re heading in the right direction?

Here is a way to frame the investments we make in the strategy that becomes our lives: We have resources—which include personal time, energy, talent, and wealth—and we are using them to try to expand several “businesses” in our personal lives. These include having a rewarding relationship with our spouse or significant other; succeeding in our careers; and so on. Unfortunately, our resources are limited, and these “businesses” are competing for them.

It’s exactly the same problem that a corporation has. Your resources are not decided and deployed in a single meeting; instead, the process is continuous, and you have, in your brain, a filter for making choices about what to prioritize.

But it’s also a messy process. People ask for your time and energy every day and even if you are focused on what’s important to you, it’s still difficult to know which are the right choices. If you have an extra ounce of energy or a spare 30 minutes, a lot of people will push you to spend them here rather than there. With so many people and projects wanting your time and attention, you can feel like you are not in charge of your own destiny.

The danger for high-achieving people is that they’ll unconsciously allocate their resources to activities that yield the most immediate, tangible accomplishments. This is often in their careers, as this domain of their lives provides the most concrete evidence that they are moving forward. They ship a product, finish a design, help an employee, close a sale, teach a class, win a case, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. They prioritize tasks that give them immediate returns—such as a promotion, a raise, or a bonus—rather than those that require long-term work.

Although they may believe their family is deeply important to them, they actually allocate fewer and fewer resources to the things they would say matter most.

Few people set out to do this. The decisions that cause it to happen often seem tactical, just small decisions they think won’t have any larger impact. But as they keep allocating resources in this way—and although they often won’t realize it—they’re implementing a strategy vastly different from what they intend.

Bottom line: If the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat, and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person. As you continue on your life’s journey, allocate your resources wisely—at work and home.

Still curious? Read How Will You Measure Your Life.

Source: Adapted from How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon.

How To Find Work You Love

It’s possible to love your job and hate it at the same time:

On one side of the equation, there are the elements of work that, if not done right, will cause us to be dissatisfied. These are the hygiene factors: status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices. It matters, for example, that you don’t have a manager who manipulates you for his own purposes–or who doesn’t hold you accountable for things over which you don’t have responsibility. Bad hygiene causes dissatisfaction.

But even if you instantly improve the hygiene factors of your job, you’re not going to suddenly love it. At best, you just won’t hate it anymore. The opposite of job dissatisfaction isn’t job satisfaction, but rather an absence of job dissatisfaction. They’re not the same thing at all.

So, what are the factors that will cause us to love our jobs? Motivators.

Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. Motivation is much less about external prodding or stimulation, and much more about what’s inside of you and inside of your work.

Is money the answer?

The point isn’t that money is the root cause of professional unhappiness. It’s not. The problems start occurring when it becomes the priority over all else, when you’ve satisfied the hygiene factors but the quest remains only to make more money. Herzberg’s theory of motivation suggests you need to ask yourself a different set of questions: Is this work meaningful to me? Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement? Am I going to learn new things?

Once you get this right, the more measureable aspects of your job will fade in importance. As the saying goes; find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

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