Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Clay Christensen: How Will You Measure Your Life?

Here at The Popped Kernel, we aim to humanize leaders in business and government by understanding who they are as people. So when we heard that famed Harvard Business School (HBS) professor, Clay Christensen, uses his last class of the semester to urge his students to apply theories from class to better find out who they are as people, we took notice.

Professor Christensen recently repurposed his lecture for an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) entitled "How Will You Measure Your Life?" We recommend that you read it in full - it's fantastic.

Christensen's message is partially premised on the fact that "more and more of (his HBS '79 classmates) come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children" because "they didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy."

To avoid the same fate, students in Christensen's class are asked to reflect upon three questions:

1. How can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Hint: it's less about money and more about people. As Christensen puts it, "More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people."

2. How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Here, Christensen alludes to the theory of resource allocation. That is, students must invest the appropriate amount of time into the things in life that are most important to them in order to yield fulfillment in the long term. Christensen even suggests to his students spending an hour each day reflecting upon their purpose - reading, thinking, experiencing (and in Christensen's case, "praying" as well). Afterall, as he says of his students, "Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of (business concepts)."

3. How can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Put another way, "How can I ensure that I do the ethical thing in business and in life?" Christensen advises his students to not compromise personal values on the little things, as doing so will snowball into compromising values on the big things later on, which can - and often does - get you in trouble. (Two of the 32 people in Christensen's Rhode Scholar class ended up in jail - so did one of his HBS classmates, Jeff Skilling, former CEO of Enron - all of whom Christensen calls "good guys," but "something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.")

How will you measure your life? Comment below or write us at

No comments:

Post a Comment