One of Protagion’s mentors speaks incredibly highly of the impact of Whitney Johnson on his professional career, which tempted us to do further research on her ideas and approach. We were delighted to learn that she has applied the techniques of disruptive innovation to careers.
Disruptive innovation is the concept championed by Clayton Christensen. I vividly recall reading his seminal work on this while on holiday a number of years ago: "The Innovator’s Dilemma"*, and would heartily recommend it to those interested in strategy and innovation. A disruptive innovation is defined as a low-end or new market innovation that ultimately overturns an industry, with Netflix a commonly-cited modern example.
It is an interesting thought experiment to consider the workplace as an ecosystem of incumbents (established employees) and innovators/disruptors (new joiners). Whitney herself says: “The theory of disruption that we apply to products actually also applies to people”, and she is a firm believer that pivots in our own career paths “dramatically improve [our] chances of finding financial, social, and emotional success”
Core is the concept of the learning curve, a graphical representation similar to the curve of diffusion or adoption. It starts from no knowledge, recognising that growth is slow to start, before everything falls into place and your enjoyment significantly increases. Later, growth slows and begins to plateau. A similar model can be applied to other situations, including salary growth over a professional career.
Read more to see what forces lead to this curve shape, learn about other related models of expertise, consider how you can use this model as a manager, get Whitney’s tips for disrupting yourself, and see whose personal stories of career changes she profiled in a Harvard Business Review article.
This Protagion post focuses on a TEDx talk given by Dorie Clark at an event titled “Professions of the Future” in Switzerland in September 2017. The talk explores portfolio careers, a topic we briefly touched on in a previous Halloween-themed post about slashers: people who do different concurrent jobs.
Dorie herself has “consciously and deliberately worked to cultivate multiple income streams”. The New York Times describes her as an “expert at self-reinvention”, and her roles include:
Through that process [of building a portfolio career], it’s done a lot of things: it’s brought in more revenue for me, it’s mitigated my risk, it’s introduced me to new people and new experiences, it’s helped me develop new skills. And it’s my hope for you, whether you work for yourself, or if you have a day job that you love and want to keep, that if you cultivate a portfolio career, that it could do the same for you.”
Her talks often use personal stories of people she’s interviewed to illustrate her suggestions, which makes them relatable and easier to remember. Read more to view the video, some takeaways, and additional insights from Dorie.
We recently collaborated with actuartech.com on an article exploring the impact of technology evolution on training and active career management. Written with fellow actuaries Valerie du Preez and Michael Jordan, it also shared our thoughts on the future.
Some of the ActuarTech article echoed my presentation in November 2018 at the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ “Lifelong Learning: Fit for the Future” event, which covered career evolution, reinvention, and suggestions from Protagion for managing our careers and developing into new roles (for individuals, managers and organisations). One of these suggestions was about learning how to learn by practising doing things you’ve never done, using your transferable skillset to make the shift. I also referenced the importance of emotional support and resilience-building in this process.
In this post, we expand on this, reiterating Protagion’s suggestions (for all professionals) for staying abreast of the changing technological landscape, recognising the importance of keeping up-to-date and taking inspiration from change.