Karen Dillon

Inquire About This Speaker

Authority on Leadership, Innovation and Problem-solving; Co-author with Clay Christensen of Bestsellers “How Will You Measure Your Life?,” “Competing Against Luck” and the “The Prosperity Paradox” (2019); Former Harvard Business Review Editor; Master Moderator

Biography

In a time of uncertainty and disruption, there is a palpable demand for new, innovative ideas and solutions to problems. Whether the issue is global poverty or low job satisfaction for high achievers, Karen Dillon can help you find the answers. The former editor of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Dillon has long chronicled the successes and failures of businesses and their leaders. Since leaving her senior editorial position, Dillon has worked with some of the greatest minds in academia ­– including Clayton Christensen, Michael Porter, Vijay Govindarajan and Daniel Isenberg – to help them crystallize and communicate the newest groundbreaking ideas. An acclaimed writer and speaker, Dillon helps organizations come to terms with the problems they face and offers proven methods of how to reinvent themselves in a changing world.

An exceptional writer and the sole author of “The Harvard Business Review Guide to Office Politics” (HBR Press, December 2014), Dillon is an expert on navigating the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century corporation. She advises leading executives on such issues as winning influence without compromising integrity; contending with unscrupulous colleagues; managing tensions when resources are scarce; and getting one’s share of coveted assignments. The idea that one must be a ruthless “corporate climber,” says Dillon, is wrong. By leveraging Dillon’s lessons and perspectives, executives can think differently about the challenges they face and harness opportunities for greater advancement and strategic leadership.

Currently a contributing editor to HBR focused on the topics of leadership, human resources, innovation and entrepreneurship, Dillon is especially skilled at personalizing the themes of her books to make them actionable and relevant to each audience. Also a skilled moderator, Dillon connects 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 bestselling titles, including “How Will You Measure Your Life?” (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. In 2016, she and Christensen collaborated with Taddy Hall and David Duncan to co-author “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperBusiness, October 2016), a groundbreaking book with the potential to reframe entire industries. It is based on a simple yet profound idea put forward by Christensen in “The Innovator’s Solution” (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. Dillon is also co-author of “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty” (HarperBusiness, January 2019) with Christensen and Efosa Ojomo. The book, which was awarded an Axiom Business Book Awards “Gold Medal” in the category of Business Ethics for 2019, applies the theories of disruptive innovation and “jobs to be done” to international economics and development. Arguing that only innovation can drive nations to prosperity, Dillon and her co-authors aim to shift the debate and perspective for businesses, policymakers and nonprofits on how best to address the crisis of global poverty.

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

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

(HarperBusiness, January 2019)

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)

Media

Karen Dillon Moderating: Can Innovation Lift Nations Out of Poverty? (Audio)

June, 2019

Can Corruption Ever Be Eliminated in the World? Boss Tweed and Napster Show a Counterintuitive Path Forward

April 3, 2019

Deseret News logo

Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

March 14, 2019

How Innovators Can Create Prosperity For Many and End Poverty in the Process

March 11, 2019

Want to End Poverty? Go Easy on the Aid

March 5, 2019

Focus on the Customer Task, Not Just Product Feature: 3 Innovation Tips for Entrepreneurs

March 5, 2019

Want to Foster Prosperity? Focus on Market-Creating Innovations

February 14, 2019

Getting to Yes, And... (Audio)

February 12, 2019

Wall Street Journal logo

"The Prosperity Paradox" Review: A Better Way to Fight Poverty

January 30, 2019

Entrepreneurs Can Have a Direct Impact on the Eradication of Extreme Poverty in the World. Here's How.

January 25, 2019

Poverty Data Never Tells the Whole Story

January 22, 2019

Fortune logo

How 1850s America Offers a Model for Escaping Poverty

January 17, 2019

On Leadership with Scott Miller: Karen Dillon (Video)

January, 2019

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Life Nations Out of Poverty

January 15, 2019

What a Global Prosperity Researcher Learned about Failure in His Mission to End World Poverty

January 15, 2019

How We Build National Institutions Plays a Crucial Role in Ensuring Prosperity for Developing Nations

January 15, 2019

Inc

How 1 Company - and its Insanely Popular and Cheap Noodles - Transformed Nigeria

January 11, 2019

Innovation is the Answer

January 7, 2019

New England Doesn't Need New Factories. But It Does Need New Ideas

January 2, 2019

Inc

10 Business Books You Need to Read in 2019

January 2, 2019

Innovation Guru Clayton Christensen Calls For Korea to be More Disruptive

January 1, 2019

Harvard Business Review logo

Cracking Frontier Markets

January/February 2019

Author & Thought Leader Karen Dillon on Toxic Coworkers, Political Angst, and the Psychology Behind Consumerism

March 5, 2018

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

evolllution logo

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

April 3, 2017

Harvard Business Review logo

How Managers Can Avoid Playing Favorites

March 15, 2017

Jobs to Be Done is Product Management (Audio)

January 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 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

Biography

In a time of uncertainty and disruption, there is a palpable demand for new, innovative ideas and solutions to problems. Whether the issue is global poverty or low job satisfaction for high achievers, Karen Dillon can help you find the answers. The former editor of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Dillon has long chronicled the successes and failures of businesses and their leaders. Since leaving her senior editorial position, Dillon has worked with some of the greatest minds in academia ­– including Clayton Christensen, Michael Porter, Vijay Govindarajan and Daniel Isenberg – to help them crystallize and communicate the newest groundbreaking ideas. An acclaimed writer and speaker, Dillon helps organizations come to terms with the problems they face and offers proven methods of how to reinvent themselves in a changing world.

An exceptional writer and the sole author of “The Harvard Business Review Guide to Office Politics” (HBR Press, December 2014), Dillon is an expert on navigating the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century corporation. She advises leading executives on such issues as winning influence without compromising integrity; contending with unscrupulous colleagues; managing tensions when resources are scarce; and getting one’s share of coveted assignments. The idea that one must be a ruthless “corporate climber,” says Dillon, is wrong. By leveraging Dillon’s lessons and perspectives, executives can think differently about the challenges they face and harness opportunities for greater advancement and strategic leadership.

Currently a contributing editor to HBR focused on the topics of leadership, human resources, innovation and entrepreneurship, Dillon is especially skilled at personalizing the themes of her books to make them actionable and relevant to each audience. Also a skilled moderator, Dillon connects 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 bestselling titles, including “How Will You Measure Your Life?” (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. In 2016, she and Christensen collaborated with Taddy Hall and David Duncan to co-author “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperBusiness, October 2016), a groundbreaking book with the potential to reframe entire industries. It is based on a simple yet profound idea put forward by Christensen in “The Innovator’s Solution” (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. Dillon is also co-author of “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty” (HarperBusiness, January 2019) with Christensen and Efosa Ojomo. The book, which was awarded an Axiom Business Book Awards “Gold Medal” in the category of Business Ethics for 2019, applies the theories of disruptive innovation and “jobs to be done” to international economics and development. Arguing that only innovation can drive nations to prosperity, Dillon and her co-authors aim to shift the debate and perspective for businesses, policymakers and nonprofits on how best to address the crisis of global poverty.

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

The Prosperity Paradox: How to Create Prosperity Through Innovation

Can businesses tap into new markets, increase profits and make the world a better place all at the same time? Yes, and in fact they are essential to addressing the global problem of grinding, persistent poverty. Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon have found through meticulous research that the key to alleviating poverty is not to push resources but to enable businesses and entrepreneurs to pull them in. Using case studies as diverse as the Ford Model T and Tolaram instant noodles, the three authors argue that “market-creating innovations” create the conditions necessary to uplift entire populations. In this process, businesses and investors who successfully develop such innovations prosper enormously by generating an entire base of consumers where none previously existed. Karen Dillon reveals what type of product or service constitutes a market-creating innovation, and how businesses and development organizations can help create the conditions under which true growth and prosperity will flourish.

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, “Competing Against Luck,” consumer behavior is motivated not by the desire to buy a product or service, but to fulfill a job. To succeed in innovation, we must first comprehend what job our customers are trying to perform. With vivid case studies ranging from the successes of the American Girl dolls and Southern New Hampshire University to Intuit’s QuickBooks and food producer Sargento, Dillon expertly reveals the commonalities of their strategies, showing how any company can replicate them for their unique business and customer needs. Don’t leave innovation to chance urges Dillon. A “jobs” approach to innovation requires understanding why customers make buying choices and how you can turn that insight into competitive advantage.

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

As senior editor of the Harvard Business Review, Karen Dillon had seemingly reached the pinnacle of her career. But she was unsatisfied and felt she was not truly making a difference. She left that position and proceeded to chart a new course – working with Clayton Christensen and other leading academics and thought leaders to communicate theories and insights that are changing the world. This experience led Dillon to co-write (with Christensen) “How Will You Measure Your Life?,” an analysis of why so many ostensibly successful and high-achieving people are unhappy with their current jobs. In this keynote presentation based on the bestselling book, 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.

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

You are a high achiever, you have set your professional goals and you give your best effort to your job every day. But you are not climbing the career ladder as fast as you’d like. 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. Do not resort to that! Instead, Dillon helps you better understand how to work with a wide-range of complex people; it is essential, she says, for the good of your organization, your career and your life. In an engaging and thought-provoking presentation, Dillon explains the one skill many of us lack that high potentials and great leaders have: they know how to deftly navigate conflict and challenging personalities without letting it derail them. With the right approach, anyone can build this skill. Dillon shares her insights from personal experiences as a manager and research from her book, “HBR Guide to Office Politics,” revealing that 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.

Media

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

Advance Praise for “The Prosperity Paradox”

“Christensen, Ojomo and Dillon provide an original view on how to combat global poverty in their insightful book, The Prosperity Paradox. It’s an inspiring read on why innovation is one of the most powerful tools we have to help the millions around the world living in poverty.”

—Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, OECD

The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon is a timely must-read on the mindset change that turns poverty into opportunity and enables the creation of sustainable prosperity. As World Bank Treasurer, I saw first-hand how the innovative approaches described in this compelling easy to read primer empowers development practitioners and businesses to seek out these profitable opportunities.”

—Arunma Oteh, World Bank Treasurer (30th September 2015 to 30th November 2018)

“This is one of the most insightful books about entrepreneurship that I have ever read – Christensen, Ojomo, and Dillon captured perfectly the experience of creating a market – against all odds – and then the joy of watching it grow and thrive.”

—Richard Leftley, chief executive officer of MicroEnsure

The Prosperity Paradox will fundamentally change the conversation about the role of philanthropy in development. As Christensen, Ojomo, and Dillon capture perfectly, to tackle truly important problems, we need to reset our current thinking. Market-creating innovation needs to play a critical role in enabling a path out of poverty through market-driven solutions. Most foundations do not exercise the power they have to provide catalytic capital to engage in high-risk ventures that may unlock sustainable replicable and scalable game-changing solutions.”

—Irene Pritzker, President & Chief Executive Officer, IDP Foundation, Inc

“Clayton Christensen’s latest book The Prosperity Paradox is a must-read. Powerful, persuasive, and wonderfully written, Christensen and his coauthors make a compelling case for the game-changing role of innovation in some of the world’s most desperate economies.”

—Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google and Alphabet

The Prosperity Paradox has the power to transform our thinking about philanthropy and social good. As we continue to grapple with how to lift people out of poverty, Clay Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon provide a new and innovative solution for millions of people around the world. It’s a must-read for anyone with an interest in global affairs who wants to create a truly thriving society.”

—Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

The Prosperity Paradox perfectly illustrates the need for investment and support for local innovators. Christensen, Ojomo and Dillon show how real entrepreneurs have created booming businesses in low- and middle-income countries, while generating economic growth. This book is necessary for any entrepreneur who wants to create positive and lasting change, and for any government official or investor who wants a better way to spur global development.”

—Matias Recchia, co-founder and CEO of IguanaFix

“The Prosperity Paradox is a manifesto and a call to action for those who recognize that our survival depends on creating opportunity. This book will help innovators be more compassionate. And the compassionate be more innovative.”

—Tom Fletcher, CMG, former UK Ambassador and author of The Naked Diplomat

“Prosperity Paradox is the most important business/management book since Peter Drucker. It will dramatically change all initiatives on development and well beyond–starting with venture capital and entrepreneurship. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about sustainable economic development.”

—Eduardo Braun, Leader of the Advisory Board, Buenos Aires Innovation Park and author of People First Leadership

”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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Intro Video

Video ThumbnailDo You Have a Strategy for Your Life? | Karen Dillon | TEDxBYU – youtube Video