Life Cliff Notes: Disrupt Yourself (Whitney Johnson)

There has never been a more interesting, exciting time to work in technology-fueled business transformation. Disrupt Yourself provides readers with frameworks of disruptive innovation strategies that could be applied in many ways to meet their business/career goals or objectives whether they are for self-starters ready to make a disruptive pivot in their business, high-potential individuals charting a career trajectory, managers looking to instill innovative thinking among their team, and/or leaders facing industry changes that make for an uncertain future.

We are living in an era of accelerating disruption; no one is immune. Disrupt Yourself author, Whitney Johnson, is a former Merrill Lynch Equity Research Analyst and current cofounder of the Forty Over 40 List, which recognizes women who are reinventing, disrupting, and making an impact. Whitney makes the compelling case that managing the S-curve waves of learning and mastery is a requisite skill for the future. If you want to be successful in unexpected ways, follow your own disruptive path. Dare to innovate. Do something astonishing. Disrupt Yourself.

Here are your Life Cliff Notes from the book:

Seven variables that can speed up or slow down the movement of individuals or organizations:

o Taking the right risks

o Playing to your distinctive strengths

o Embracing constraints

o Battling entitlement

o Stepping back to grow

o Giving failure its due

o Being discovery driven

· Henry David Thoreau: Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thoughts.

· A classic mistake made during venture capital booms is to fund start-ups that have good ideas but no staying power because an established player will have the incentive to co-opt the idea and squash the up-and-comer like a bug.

· Identify a job no one else can do. For real staying power, it’s important to specialize in such a way there is no one else doing the job.

· Sometimes moving up the curve just takes patience.

· Sometimes you are on the wrong curve. You may see a huge opportunity, or hope to be hired to do a job, but before taking the job or starting that business, make sure you have the strengths that meet those needs. If there isn’t a match, it will be tough to drive toward competence.

· You may find that your distinctive strengths do not align with the learning curve you are hoping to scale. In which case, you’ll want to jump to a curve that is a better fit.

· There is no shortage of jobs to be done and problems to be solved. But there’s only one of you. The right problems are those that you somehow feel called to solve, and are capable of solving, because of your expertise and accumulated life experience. As you consider making the leap to a new learning curve, examine the assets you’ve acquired, and focus on what you can do that others cannot. Then look for a job that no one is doing.

· Constraints lead to faster feedback.

· The human mind has astounding learning capabilities but constantly seeks out constraints. Including constraints tallows you to make a faster, more accurate prediction of the consequences of your actions, letting you determine which course of action will likely give you the best result.

· Your ability to shrink the space, getting immediate and actionable feedback can be privotable in expanding your space into a high-profile role.

· Fast feedback is also useful when it comes to identifying your distinctive strengths.

· Not enough time, money, expertise, and buy-in may be a signal that you are tilting at windmills. But it could also mean you need to slow down and solve for one constraint at a time.

· When you disrupt yourself, you are looking for growth, so if you want to muscle up a curve, you have to push and pull against objects and barriers that would constrain and constrict you. That is how you get stronger.

· Peter Drucker: You will achieve the greatest results in business and career if you drop the word “achievement” from your vocabulary and replace it with “contribution”.

· Battle entitlement, the innovation killer.

· Try reframing dissenting voices as important allies. Literature on innovation tends to frame the relationship between spry innovators and the staid status quo as a David-versus-Golaith battle, but the challenge for organizations and individuals is to acknowledge that David and Golaith must work together rather than fight each other. If you are slinging around words like bureaucratic, rigid, upstarts, too big for their britches, you will stall along the curve of innovation.

· One of the most difficult aspects of jumping to a new curve is setting aside your ego. “Have you ever let go of something that simultaneously protects and strangles you; something that both defines you, but also suffocates your evolution?”

· When we take a step down to gain momentum for an upward surge, for a time we will know less than those around us. This can deal a blow to the ego.

· Task failure is preferable to humiliation and loss of face.

· Disruptors have to be driven by discovery.

· Discovery-driven planning acknowledges the difference between planning or a new venture and planning for a more conventional line of business. Conventional planning operates on the premise that you can extrapolate future results from a well-understood and predictable platform of past experience. One expects predictions to be accurate because they are based on solid knowledge. In this type of planning, a venture’s deviations from the plan are a bad thing.

· Most people don’t form a self then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.

· One’s knowledge can peak and become bored as a result of that. Curiosity about other opportunities would allow one to utilize one’s skill that could propel him/her over and over into new learning curves.

· Sometimes you have to take a few steps laterally, or even backwards to make a difference in your future.

· One of the things that the textbooks on disruption shy away from mentioning is that discovery-driven learning is often lonely and sometime scary.

· Trans means “a going across”. Whether we are transplanting or transacting, exchanging the old for a reimagined self, the classic S-curve can help us navigate the transition. The more you disrupt, the better you’ll get at it.

· Learning is not linear, but exponential: there is a cumulative and compounding effect. If you do something disruptive today, then the probability that you can be disruptive tomorrow increases. Momentum creates momentum.

· Life has been about searching for the steep learning curve because that’s where most do their best work. When one does their best work, money and stature has always followed.

· Like a novice trapeze artist letting go of the old to leap to the new, we are sure to experience a moment of midair terror. But we are far less likely to fall if we fling ourselves to the next curve. And, in the seemingly terrible moment of transition, your dreams — the engine of disruption — will buoy you. Are you ready to jump?