“Look, Clayton, I’m a busy man and I don’t have time to read drivel from academics but someone you told me you had this theory… and I’m wondering if you could come out to present what you’re learning to me and my staff and tell us how it applies to Intel.”

So begins the story that Clay Christensen would love to tell about how Andy Grove of Intel famously came to be a convert to the theory of disruption. …

‘Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.’

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Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Most know Professor Christensen for his business academic work — in particular, his ground-breaking work on the theory of disruptive innovation. Getting to be his student, and the co-author of How Will You Measure Your Life?, I had the privilege of getting to know another side of him: a deeply principled man, committed to his religion, and to the people in his life. While many people view professional, personal, and spiritual as distinct parts of life, Clay was the same person in each. It was just the way his mind worked.

The following excerpt reflects that beautifully — how he could effortlessly move from generating insight in the business world, to helping to frame decisions in your personal life.

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Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith and SAP CEO Bill McDermott

The Qualtrics acquisition by SAP represents the third largest sale of any SaaS company in history. One of the largest players in enterprise software just purchased a company in a space — Customer Experience Management (CEM) — that you’ve probably never heard of.

But despite you haven’t heard of it, this deal actually has the opportunity to fundamentally alter the way that organizations get managed. ERP systems have traditionally focused on sensing data inside an organization — inventory, processes, financials. Customer Experience Management (CEM) systems shift that focus from the inside, to the outside.

Back to the customer.

Imagine, if you will, a typical employee walking in to a typical business — if either of those existed. After they’d sat down, perhaps with their coffee in the morning, what do you think the first thing is that they’d look at? …

The New Yorker’s profile on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook was fascinating reading — if you missed the last few years on Facebook, it’s an excellent place to see it all in one spot.

But, for a variety reasons, there was one theme that stood out: Zuckerberg’s apparent obsession with Augustus.

Augustus (born Octavius) is among the most storied of Roman Emperors. He defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, becoming princips, or first citizen. No doubt his military acumen was high — he expanded the Roman empire dramatically, adding to it Egypt, northern Spain and much of central Europe. Not only that, he was brutal in doing so. …

2013 saw one of the world’s most publicized data breaches. A Target employee inadvertently clicked on a phishing email; soon after, the personal details of over a third of all American adults were released into the wild — to be used in ways that were certainly never intended when those adults gave the data to Target.

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Target got slammed for it. People stopped shopping there that Christmas. Their stock price tanked. Their CEO got fired.

As bad as this was, it is absolutely child’s play compared to the racket that Facebook was running at exactly the same time.

There’s a very good reason that Facebook is the fastest growing advertising business in the world. It’s because it has the largest, most detailed and most granular user data on the planet. It’s also incredibly personal, and will reveal a lot about your life to anyone who has access to it. And yet all the way up until April 2015, Facebook was giving all that data away to its developers that were using the Graph API. …

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,

What the hell is water?

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This opening to David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement speech is coming to my mind more and more often these days. …

“It is often assumed that an economy of private enterprise has an automatic bias toward innovation, but this is not so. It has a bias only toward profit.” — Eric Hobsbawm

The first time I arrived in the United States as more than a tourist was in September 2008, to begin graduate school. It was a fateful time to land in the country: within weeks, the US financial system began to melt down.

In seeking to understand quite how this had happened, a term began to be used that I wasn’t very familiar with.

Moral hazard: In economics, moral hazard occurs when one person takes more risks because someone else bears the cost of those risks. …

There’s something about Facebook that I’ve always found troubling. For regular listeners of Exponent, the podcast that Ben Thompson and I do together, this disquiet with Facebook has been a recurring theme — going back almost all the way to the start.

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That concern raised its head again last week in the light of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent post, Building Global Community. In it, Zuckerberg lays out his vision for the future of Facebook:

For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community — for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all. …

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At the start of last month, I quit my job.

Something you’ll quickly learn in such a situation: you have a lot of time on your hands. Combine that with a scarcity of responsibility — and I thought what the hell. Let’s go try a silent meditation retreat.

With not much more of an understanding than that, I embarked upon ten days of silence at a Vipassana meditation center.

I thought it was going to be ten days of unplugging and zenning out. It didn’t take long before I realized that’s not quite what I had just signed up for.

If you ever decide to do something similar, you’ll arrive at the center in the afternoon of “Day Zero.” Everyone assembles and some ground rules are laid out. The sexes are separated; the timetable is shared (wake up at 4am, upwards of 10 hours of meditation a day; lights out at 10pm); and the concept of “noble silence” is introduced. Despite it being a silent meditation course, there is actually talking that takes place — you receive instruction over the course of the ten days, and if you have problems or questions you are free to either ask the instructors or the assistants. …

One of the most interesting experiments in economics is known as the ultimatum game. It deftly gets at a fundamental truth of human nature — about how our deep emotional programming cause us to do things that, when viewed through the lens of rationality, just don’t make sense.

The game itself involves two players. The first player receives a sum of money, and gets to propose how to divide it between the two players. The second player can do only one thing: accept or reject the proposal. …


James Allworth

Co-host @exponentFM, Co-author @MeasureYourLife, Fellow @ClayChristensen's thinktank, writer @HarvardBiz

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