The New Yorker profiles Clay and HWYMYL

Posted on May 7th, by James in Press & Reviews. 2 comments

The New Yorker magazine has just posted an in-depth profile of Professor Clayton Christensen, and his forthcoming book How Will You Measure Your Life?. From the article:

Christensen had seen dozens of companies falter by going for immediate payoffs rather than long-term growth, and he saw people do the same thing. In three hours at work, you could get something substantial accomplished, and if you failed to accomplish it you felt the pain right away. If you spent three hours at home with your family, it felt like you hadn’t done a thing, and if you skipped it nothing happened. So you spent more and more time at the office, on high-margin, quick-yield tasks, and you even believed that you were staying away from home for the sake of your family. He had seen many people tell themselves that they could divide their lives into stages, spending the first part pushing forward their careers, and imagining that at some future point they would spend time with their families—only to find that by then their families were gone. Christensen had made a pledge to God not to work on Sundays, and a pledge to his family not to work on Saturdays and to be home during the week early enough for dinner and to play ball with the kids while it was still light. Sometimes, in order to keep those commitments, he would go to work at three in the morning.

Another thing he worried about in both business and families was outsourcing. Look at Dell: over the years, the company had outsourced more and more of its manufacturing to a company in Taiwan—its returns increasing each time, as it focussed on higher-level activities like design and marketing—until in the end, the Taiwanese firm started making its own computers for less money. WHen he thought about Dell, he thought how, when he and Christine were first married, she had made most of the family’s clothes, and they had picked apples and made applesauce, and picked tomatoes and made tomato sauce, but then store-bought clothes and applesauce and tomato sauce became so cheap that it seemed crazy to keep making them at home. Luckily, they had bought two wrecks of houses and fixed them up themselves, so there had always been sheet rocking or plastering or painting to do with the kids, but he knew that most of his students would consider this a waste of time. Wanting their children to spend their extracurricular house in the most profitable way, they would pay for lessons and smart, enriching activities,and they would outsource the low-end, dumb tasks like mowing the lawn and mending clothes, and the children would grow up without knowing how to solve practical problems by themselves, or do something they didn’t enjoy or thought they weren’t going to be good at.

At this stage, it’s only available to subscribers, but to find our more head over to the New Yorker’s website.

2 Responses to “The New Yorker profiles Clay and HWYMYL”

  1. [...] on from the earlier profile piece, Larissa MacFarquhar of the New Yorker hosted a live chat on Clay Christensen and How Will You [...]

  2. [...] “How Will You Measure Your Life?“ – Clayton Christensen is out with a new book that I recommend. If it sounds familiar, the book is based on an article of the same title that I think I sent around two years ago and still recommend. The author is a good writer and a deep, balanced thinker, and this is a worthwhile read. Previews here and here. [...]

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