Karen Dillon

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Co-author with Clay Christensen of Best-sellers “How Will You Measure Your Life?”, “Competing Against Luck” and the Forthcoming “The Prosperity Paradox” (2018); Former HBR Editor; Master Moderator

Biography

The former editor of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Karen Dillon has long chronicled the successes and failures of businesses and their leaders.

Currently a contributing editor to HBR focused on the topics of leadership, managing people, managing yourself and entrepreneurship, Dillon has worked closely with some of the world’s greatest thought leaders, including Clayton Christensen, Michael Porter, Vijay Govindarajan, Daniel Isenberg and A.G. Lafley. A talented, award-winning writer, she is also a passionate, engaging speaker – and is especially skilled at personalizing the themes of her books to make them actionable and relevant to each audience. Dillon is also a skilled moderator, connecting people and ideas in in provocative and powerful ways. She was named one of the Top 40 Influencers of 2016 by Product Management Year in Review.

Dillon is co-author of several best-selling titles, including “How Will You Measure Your Life?” (HarperCollins, May 2012), with Christensen and James Allworth. The book, born out of a series of powerful lectures and seminars by Christensen, began with an article conceived by Dillon for HBR. Most recently, she and Christensen collaborated with Taddy Hall and David Duncan to co-author “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperCollins, October 2016), a groundbreaking book with the potential to reframe industries. It is based on a simple yet profound idea put forward by Christensen in “The Innovator’s Solution” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2003): customers don’t buy products and services; they hire them to do a job. And understanding which jobs your customers need done is key to innovation success. In 2018, Karen will co-author “The Prosperity Paradox with Christensen and Efosa Ojomo. The book is the result of a multi-year project on how the disruptive innovation theory and practices have been growing economies and nations.

Dillon is also author of “The Harvard Business Review Guide to Office Politics.” Previously the deputy editor of Inc. magazine, Dillon also served as editor and publisher of the critically acclaimed American Lawyer magazine and the London-based Legal Business. She is currently a global ambassador for the Legal 500, providing in-depth analysis of the global legal market. A graduate of Cornell University and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Dillon was named by Ashoka as one of the world’s most influential and inspiring women in 2011.

Karen Dillon is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Books & Research

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

(Harper Business, October 2016)

HBR Guide to Office Politics

(Harvard Business Press Books, December 2014)

How Will You Measure Your Life?

(Harper Business, May 2012)

Articles

Are You in Danger of a Pre-Midlife Crisis? Why 35 is the New Crunch Time for Work-Weary Millennials

August 31, 2017

Harvard Business Review logo

What to Do When You’re Returning to a Company You Used to Work For

August 4, 2017

Harvard Business Review logo

New Managers Should Focus on Helping Their Teams, Not Pleasing Their Bosses

July 7, 2017

Harvard Business Review logo

How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Work from Home

May 5, 2017

Harvard Business Review logo

How Managers Can Avoid Playing Favorites

March 15, 2017

evolllution logo

Stop Competing Against Luck: Applying the Jobs to be Done Theory to Higher Education

April 3, 2017

SOCK(net) podcast logo

SOCK(net) Podcast: The Job to be Done

November 10, 2016

Knowledge @ Wharton logo

Why Marketers Often Miss the Mark in Product Innovations

November 3, 2016

Innovation Leader logo

Book Excerpt: At Intuit and Amazon, Addressing the Customer’s “Job to be Done”

November 1, 2016

Linkedin Logo

What Job Did You Hire Your Job To Do?

October 12, 2016

Quartz logo

Innovation Guru Clayton Christensen’s New Theory is Meant to Protect You From Disruption

October 12, 2016

Future-Squared logo

Clayton Christensen's New Theory with Karen Dillon

October 16, 2016

The Boston Globe logo

The Customer May Be King, But He’s Also the Boss

October 4, 2016

Harvard Business Review logo

Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”

September 2016

Harvard Business Review logo

The Power of Designing Products for Customers You Don’t Have Yet

August 31, 2016

strategy+business logo

The “Jobs to Be Done” Theory of Innovation

August 31, 2016

Harvard Business Review logo

What Airbnb Understands About Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”

August 18, 2016

Harvard Business Review logo

How to Talk About Office Politics with a New Colleague

June 17, 2016

Get Credit for Your Ideas (Instead of Fuming at Your Desk)

April 28, 2016

hbr ideacast logo

Podcast: How to Say No to More Work

March 24, 2016

philstar global logo

Theories That Can Steer You to Good Decisions

March 21, 2016

It’s OK If Going to a Conference Doesn’t Feel Like Real Work

October 7, 2015

What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Focus on Before a Job Interview

August 28, 2015

How to Manage Your Team’s Vacation Requests

June 10, 2015

We Need To Talk: Mastering the Conversations You Don't Want To Have

April 2, 2015

Podcast: Navigating Office Politics

March 6, 2015

How to Be Chief Executive of Your Own Career

Winter 2014

What to Do If Your Boss Is a Control Freak

December 23, 2014

When a Private Message Ends Up in the Wrong Place

December 22, 2014

Can You Be Friends With Your Boss?

November 28, 2014

The Essential Metrics High Achievers Overlook

September 24, 2014

Don’t Hide When Your Boss Is Mad at You

June 11, 2014

Best Books of 2012

December 3, 2012

Karen Dillon on How Will You Measure Your Life?

October 2012

Biography

The former editor of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Karen Dillon has long chronicled the successes and failures of businesses and their leaders.

Currently a contributing editor to HBR focused on the topics of leadership, managing people, managing yourself and entrepreneurship, Dillon has worked closely with some of the world’s greatest thought leaders, including Clayton Christensen, Michael Porter, Vijay Govindarajan, Daniel Isenberg and A.G. Lafley. A talented, award-winning writer, she is also a passionate, engaging speaker – and is especially skilled at personalizing the themes of her books to make them actionable and relevant to each audience. Dillon is also a skilled moderator, connecting people and ideas in in provocative and powerful ways. She was named one of the Top 40 Influencers of 2016 by Product Management Year in Review.

Dillon is co-author of several best-selling titles, including “How Will You Measure Your Life?” (HarperCollins, May 2012), with Christensen and James Allworth. The book, born out of a series of powerful lectures and seminars by Christensen, began with an article conceived by Dillon for HBR. Most recently, she and Christensen collaborated with Taddy Hall and David Duncan to co-author “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperCollins, October 2016), a groundbreaking book with the potential to reframe industries. It is based on a simple yet profound idea put forward by Christensen in “The Innovator’s Solution” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2003): customers don’t buy products and services; they hire them to do a job. And understanding which jobs your customers need done is key to innovation success. In 2018, Karen will co-author “The Prosperity Paradox with Christensen and Efosa Ojomo. The book is the result of a multi-year project on how the disruptive innovation theory and practices have been growing economies and nations.

Dillon is also author of “The Harvard Business Review Guide to Office Politics.” Previously the deputy editor of Inc. magazine, Dillon also served as editor and publisher of the critically acclaimed American Lawyer magazine and the London-based Legal Business. She is currently a global ambassador for the Legal 500, providing in-depth analysis of the global legal market. A graduate of Cornell University and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Dillon was named by Ashoka as one of the world’s most influential and inspiring women in 2011.

Karen Dillon is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Competing Against Luck: Do You Know What Jobs Your Customers are Hiring You to Do?

With big data and sophisticated analytics, we’ve never known more about our customers.  But if we know so much, why are so many companies still failing at innovation? Because we’re chasing the wrong information, argues Karen Dillon. If we never understand why our customers make the choices they make, we’re still just playing the odds that we might get it right. As Dillon explores in her groundbreaking book with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen, customers don’t buy products and services. They hire them to do a job. And understanding which jobs your customers need done is key to innovation success.

She delves deep into several well-known companies that have done this right, explaining why for three decades thousands upon thousands of parents have been willing to pay $100+ for an American Girl doll when look-alike competitors are available at a fraction of the cost; how sleepy Southern New Hampshire University became one of the biggest success stories in continuing education of the last decade; why Intuit’s Quick Books dominated the market just months after launching with “half the functionality at twice the price?”; and how Sargento turned what might sound like the least innovative idea in the world – another way to slice cheese – into $50 million in first year sales with its pre-packaged ultra-thin slices?

Don’t leave innovation to chance, urges Dillon. As she explains, “Jobs to be done’’ is not just the latest innovation jargon; it’s based on Christensen’s rigorously researched theory. A “jobs” approach to innovation requires understanding why customers make buying choices and how you can turn that insight into competitive advantage. Figure out what jobs your customers need to get done, and create the products and services they will not only eagerly buy, but are willingly pay premium prices for.

The High Achiever’s Paradox: How Will You Measure Your Life?

Why do so many high achievers end up unhappy in their careers – and their lives? That’s a question Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen set out to answer. One of the world’s most respected academics and thought leaders, he helps aspiring MBAs and CEOs alike apply management and innovation theories to build stronger companies (his “Innovator’s Dilemma” was the only business book Steve Jobs kept on his bookshelf). But during the final lecture of every semester, Christensen focuses on a surprisingly non-business issue: how will his students ensure not only a successful career – but a happy life? That ‘last class’ had become so coveted among Christensen’s students that Karen Dillon, then-editor of Harvard Business Review, was inspired to turn it into a story for the magazine. Since then, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” has become so much more than a lecture, an article and a book, which Dillon co-wrote with Christensen. The experience was life-changing for Dillon, who walked away from the top job of one of the world’s most influential magazines. What can a business school professor say that is powerful enough to trigger such response – in Dillon and the hundreds of thousands of people affected by Christensen’s thinking? Dillon shares her first-hand perspective and offers an answer to why high achievers are hardwired to make the very choices that can lead to personal and professional dissatisfaction. While there are no easy answers to life’s many demands, there is a way to find meaning and happiness in life.

Jobs to be Done in Health Care: Getting Innovation Right

Health care organizations around the world spend billions every year chasing state-of-the-art innovations designed to attract and retain patients and create more profitable enterprises. But for so many, their efforts are routinely disappointing. That’s because they’re focused on the wrong things, argues Karen Dillon. Customers, including health care patients, don’t buy products and services; they hire them to do a job. And understanding which jobs they need done is key to innovation success.

Drawing from her best-selling book, “Competing Against Luck,” co-authored with Clayton Christensen, Dillon uses real-world anecdotes and cases to illustrate why this shift in perspective has never been more critical for health care organizations. The Mayo Clinic earned – and sustains – its world-class reputation for safe, quality care not only because of its top-notch clinicians and facilities, but because it has inherently organized itself around customers’ jobs to be done. Same goes for the products and tools used by clinicians and experienced by patients, including software systems.

Dillon explains how even the most experienced innovators, inside and out of health care, can miss rich opportunities by focusing too narrowly. It’s not only about identifying the functional needs, but also the social and emotional ones. If you’re tired of throwing yourself and your health care organization into innovation efforts that consistently under deliver; if you want to create products and services your customers or patients will eagerly “hire” AND willingly pay premium prices for, start by figuring out what jobs they’re hiring you to do. Dillon discusses how.

Why You Need a “People” Strategy to Accelerate Your Career

You’re a high achiever, you’ve set your professional goals, you give your best effort to your job every day. But you’re not climbing the career ladder as fast as you wish. The biggest obstacle in your way? Challenging people, says Karen Dillon. Every organization has its share of political drama. Personalities clash. Agendas compete. Turf wars erupt. Researchers tell us that many people would rather quit a job, than stick it out with difficult colleagues. Don’t resort to that. Instead, Dillon helps you better understand how to work with a wide-range of complex people; it’s essential, she says – for the good of your organization, your career and your life.

Dillon explains why some people get to the top while others languish on the sidelines. High potentials and great leaders have one skill that many of us lack: they know how to deftly navigate conflict and challenging personalities without letting it derail them. But these are skills anyone can build, with the right approach. The former Harvard Business Review editor shares her insights from personal experiences and research from her book “HBR Guide to Office Politics.”  With the right mindset and tools, you can stop focusing on the petty politics and start focusing on building a great career.  “Office politics” is just influence by another name. To build it, you need a “people” strategy.

Articles

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

”Karen’s talk on Jobs to Be Done was one of the most thought-provoking sessions of our week-long CEO Retreat for the 2016 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Ireland Programme. One audience member told Dillon she’d just ”changed my life” with what she had shared and it would directly influence how he would grow his company. Dillon is a warm and engaging speaker who finds a way to connect with the audience, while walking them through sophisticated, challenging ideas. Her presentation was a catalyst for continuing conversation long after she’d left the stage — one of the clearest indicators of a successful speaker. Our audience gave her top marks. Jobs to Be Done and Karen Dillon herself will be on our checklist for future events.”

-Michael McCarney, Manager EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Ireland

“Karen Dillon is one of the most interesting and engaging speakers I have had the pleasure of working with. Her approach to her material is innovative and fresh but delivered in a highly accessible way. It’s only later that you realize some of the complexities of the issues she is addressing.

She is meticulously professional in her preparation and interaction and worked with me very closely to make sure the content for our conference was original, creative but would also resonate with our audience. Karen’s style of delivery is very approachable in speaking and it makes for very good levels of engagement from the audience.”

—Catherine McGregor, Editor-in-Chief, GC Magazine

“Office politics might sound a somewhat throwaway knockabout topic for such an esteemed set of guides but as former Harvard Business Review editor Karen Dillon demonstrates, it’s deadly serious. Her guide tackles common quandaries, from an over-controlling manager to a bullying colleague, employing real, practical advice rather than pop psychology, and her guidance on effective conflict management techniques is as sound as you’ll read anywhere.”

—People Management

“There are very few speeches that have an impact on me in the way yours did. I had high expectations from the title of the presentation and it delivered. Thanks for sharing your story.”

—Michael Haylon, Director of Sales, Yesware

“Your presentation went very well and the feedback has been resoundingly positive. Usually after a retreat concludes, there may be a brief post-retreat evaluation, but this time, I’ve received personal notes, emails, telephone calls and discussions. We have never had such a connection with a topic or speaker as your presentation. All I can say is thank you.”

—St. Joseph’s Health Mission Hospital

“I had the pleasure of hearing you speak in San Francisco. One of the best & most motivating presentations I’ve ever heard. I can’t thank you enough for your words of wisdom.”

—Scott MacGregor, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Flo-Tech

“Karen is an extremely engaging speaker using terrific examples to support what she is saying and being very accessible to her audience. She blends facts and examples eloquently with a great natural sense of humor, which keeps the audience interested and responding. She leaves you thinking for days and weeks, if not months, on how to measure your life.”

—Deirdre M. Coyle, Jr., Co-CEO and Founder, All World Network

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Dillon, Karen

Intro Video

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Karen Dillon "Risk and Innovation" - SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras: Symposium