One of the first business books I read (not counting college textbooks) was The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. I was an intern at Microsoft 12 years ago and my boss had just read it. He handed it to me (along with a stack of printed revenue reports to review) and recommend I take a look. The book is a classic now, easy to read and simple in its theory but very applicable then and now to the problem of sustained innovation for any business.
I’m now halfway rough his latest book How Will You Measure Your Life in which he applies business theory to the problem of finding a career and life purpose that will be fulfilling.
The Innovators Dilemma theory states that businesses that are successful are often and eventually disrupted by emergent strategies by companies in their industry, with products that are initially deemed inferior in some way, but superior in other meaningful ways. In the same way that people initially dismissed autos as inferior to horses and buggies (they were noisy, broke down and were limited to level roads), the autos slowly improved and redefined transportation. The same thing has happened to the steel business, retail stores, tech industry, books, restaurants and almost every other industry.
I like this book because it challenges the reader to think hard about the patterns they are running in their lives and the assumptions and motivations driving their decisions. Christensen himself decided to get a PhD at the age of 37 and change careers to become a professor at 39, after years as a consultant and business owner. He disrupted himself before he found himself trapped in a career and lifestyle he didn’t truly love. That takes courage no book can in itself give to a reader, but the theories he lays out do help.