Whitney Johnson

Author, Disrupt Yourself, Amazon's Best Books of the Month on Business and Leadership, October 2015

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 06, 2015

Discussion

Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
My name is Whitney Johnson. I'm a former Wall Street equity analyst, and the co-founder and former president of an investment firm with Clayton Christensen. As I applied the frameworks of disruption to investing, I discovered they also apply to individuals. In my upcoming book, I re-imagine the S-curve, typically used to gauge how quickly an innovation will be adopted, to understand the psychology of disruption, and then identify seven variables for speeding progress along your curve. Disruption is a skill that can be mastered. If you want to drive corporate innovation, start with personal disruption.
Jack Smith@_jacksmith · Serial Entrepreneur & Startup Adviser
Hi Whitney. Which people were most helpful to you as you went about raising Springboard Fund and Rose Park Advisors before that? (i.e. in terms of giving you advice, connecting you with LPs etc).
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@_jacksmith That is a good question. In terms of connecting us with LPs, I think the most helpful people are those with whom we've done business previously and are persuaded that how you invest or think works. In particular at Rose Park Advisors, one of our lead investors was Scott Cook. Why? Because he was familiar with disruption. He'd applied these frameworks to his business successfully. So it wasn't a huge leap that these frameworks could be applied to investing.
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
Hi Alisha. What a great questions. There are a couple of businesses that I think are especially exciting. I continue to love Shabby Apple, but also very much like TheRealReal, Pixability and Ditto.
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@johnsonwhitney Oh, and I think the Daily Muse has a terrific business model as well as Catchafire.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@johnsonwhitney can you elaborate on daily muse?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg I like the business model because they deliver fantastic content in order to aggregate readers / eyeballs / millennial professionals (though not just millennials read it), and are able to monetize as a b2b play. Over time, I suspect Linkedin will want to purchase them.
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
Hi Whitney, what was the most exciting thing about being a Wall Street equity analyst?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@colazionearoma Ah, a great question Teresa. The most exciting part for me was when I would upgrade or downgrade a stock, and then see the stock move up or down on my recommendation.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
I've heard horror stories about women working on Wall Street. What impact did the start of your career in finance have on the way you now think about business and leadership?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@melissajoykong The first is that I became very attuned to how does a company create value because I was continually assessed whether a stock was over or undervalued, and how well could management create and then communicate value. So I am always thinking in terms of ROI. Also, I think I became attuned to gender. The stories told in Liar's Poker. They are real.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@johnsonwhitney @melissajoykong can you tell us the evolution from wall street to working with Clayton Christensen?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg @melissajoykong I first heard Clayton speaking in 2004. I realized his frameworks explained what was happening with wireless telecom. I also realized as I read Innovator's Dilemma that the frameworks applied to the individual -- to me. If I wanted to make a dent, I was going to have to take some market risk and disrupt myself. Around that time I also started working on a number of volunteer projects with Clayton for our church. It turns out I did a good job. So when he wanted to launch a fund he asked me to join him as a co-founder. Note too that the low-end disruption took place here too because I was not the obvious candidate -- I don't have an MBA from Harvard.
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@johnsonwhitney What's a simple strategy that most people don't think of?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@russfrushtick Play where other people aren't, whether as a company or as an individual. We see an opportunity fully scoped out and we want to go for it. It seems more certain to us. But the better opportunity is the one that involves playing where people don't want to or haven't thought of playing as the theory of disruption says that may be less certain, but it is ultimately less risky.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
A few years back, Christensen wrote the bestseller, "How Will You Measure Your Life?" How have you come to measure yours? What's one of the most meaningful life lessons you've learned from working with Christensen while working together at Rose Park Advisors?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@melissajoykong Hi Melissa. Yes, an amazing book based on an amazing lecture. The first lesson I learned was to really think about the metrics I was using to measure my success. The one that has always stayed with me is that we intend to spend time with people we love, but because I get focused on making one more phone call, or doing one more task that will help me be successful at work, then I wouldn't spend time with my family. I have become much more aware that I will measure my life by how happy I was and am at home. And that reminds me to make sure that I spend time at home. Even on simple things. Like picking my daughter up from school.
Alisha Ramos@alishalisha · Product Design Director @ Vox Media
@johnsonwhitney Hi Whitney! What are some recent disruptive businesses or business models you are particularly excited about?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@alishalisha I did respond to your question. Did you see it?
Alisha Ramos@alishalisha · Product Design Director @ Vox Media
@johnsonwhitney @alishalisha Yes, thank you! I hadn't heard of TheRealReal before, but now I'm interested.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hi Whitney - what are some of the biggest misconceptions people have around disruption?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg That it is a breakthrough. Something spectacular and splashy. Disruption by definition involves playing where no one wants to play (at the low-end) or no one has thought of playing (new market) which means that initially it is pretty lonely.
Lukas Fittl@lukasfittl · Product Hunt
@johnsonwhitney Thanks for taking the time for this chat! I must admit, I'm not familiar with your work (yet!), but I'm curious since you work with Christensen - do you incorporate the "Jobs to be done" framework in your own writing and your upcoming book?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@lukasfittl I do. My view is that to move quickly up the S-curve of disruption you need to take the right kinds of risk. This involves finding jobs that people want done, not just the functional, but the emotional job. Almost always the job that people struggle to understand is the emotional job, whether with a company or your career.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What are your favorite business books and why?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg A couple that I consider to be business books, though most wouldn't include: Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, Robert Johnson's We, and Ender's Game. More here. https://hbr.org/2012/10/if-you-w...
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Did you read this critique + if so what did you think about? http://www.newyorker.com/magazin... Another q: what's a critique of your work that you are most sympathetic to?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg Erik -- yes, I did read this article. I thought she made some interesting points, but wasn't necessarily fair-minded. I wrote the following response titled Has The Theory of Disruption Hit Puberty? https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/a...
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Can you tell us how and when you knew you wanted to write a book?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg Building on the functional / emotional jobs to be done. The initially catalyst was that when I was speaking at corporations I didn't have a leave behind. That's the functional job. The emotional job was that you only really truly understand a subject until you discipline yourself to write about it. And I knew that I could better help people move from stuck to unstuck if I could explain my ideas as clearly as possible. As for when my a-ha moment around personal disruption came -- that was 10 years earlier.
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Thanks for joining us Whitney :) What are some ways you incorporate "personal disruption" in your own life? How do you keep yourself from getting too comfortable or from falling into a stagnant, uninspiring routine?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@lejlahunts Well, I just recently disrupted myself by moving from Boston, MA to Lexington, VA. Professionally, Boston is a better place to be. But my husband got a tenure track position at Southern Virginia University, after being at home for 10 years, and so I disrupted my life, and went.
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@lejlahunts Also I should say my greatest fear in life is being stuck. So -- that prods me to move forward.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's one thing you believe that most people don't?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg You don't let a person off easy, do you? We like to say we celebrate, but we don't really. We want people to celebrate our failures, but we don't celebrate others. it's not about celebrating, but about grieving first. Not letting the failure become a referendum on you. And if you don't allow your people to fail, consider that maybe you have the wrong people. Because think about -- what child do you know are you upset when they are learning to walk and fall.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's something you've changed your mind on in the past 6 months?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg I've changed my mind about addiction. I didn't really get how someone could be addicted to alcohol or tobacco or what have you, until I tried to stop eating sugar. And, I realized, oh that's what addiction looks like. You can read more here. http://whitneyjohnson.com/linked...
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
If you were us in the audience what would you be asking yourself, knowing what you know about yourself?! :)
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@eriktorenberg I have no idea.
Scott Koehler@koehlerdesigns · Founder, Dream Kitchen Builders, LLC
What helps family members understand this process?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@koehlerdesigns Scott -- if you look at the feed, you'll see I answered!
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
What advice do you think the more experienced, wiser 70-year-old Whitney would give to you right now?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@melissajoykong To spend even more time with my children. Our youngest is a freshman in high school. She's going to be gone in four years. My 70 year-old self would say cherish this time.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
What advice would your current self give to Whitney the day she graduated from college?
Whitney Johnson@johnsonwhitney · Thinker, writer, speaker, podcaster
@melissajoykong To not be scared.