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  • Do You Have a Strategy for Your Life?  | Karen Dillon | TEDxBYU
    Do You Have a Strategy for Your Life? | Karen Dillon | TEDxBYU
  • Keynote: Karen Dillon, NYT Best Selling Author
    Keynote: Karen Dillon, NYT Best Selling Author
  • A case study on the power of market-creating innovations: MicroEnsure
    A case study on the power of market-creating innovations: MicroEnsure
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    Karen Dillon "Risk and Innovation" - SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras: Symposium
  • The Secret of Successful Innovation
    The Secret of Successful Innovation
  • Competing Against Luck - Clayton Christensen, Karen Dillon and Taddy Hall
    Competing Against Luck - Clayton Christensen, Karen Dillon and Taddy Hall
  • Karen Dillon - How Will You Measure Your Life?
    Karen Dillon - How Will You Measure Your Life?
  • Karen Dillon - Strategy
    Karen Dillon - Strategy

Learn More About Karen Dillon

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 the late Clayton ChristensenMichael 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 the late Clayton 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 the late Clayton 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 to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Karen Dillon was last modified: November 8th, 2022 by Justin Louis

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Overwhelmed, Overloaded and Over It: Overcoming the Onslaught of Micro-stress

For many of us, life has never felt so overwhelming. Few of us get to the end of a day energized and satisfied with our life – on or off the clock. In fact, we feel like we’re failing at both. We’re drowning in a sea of stress, not necessarily from major life “tsunamis” (loss of a job, death in the family, major health issues), but from dozens of “micro-stressors” that assault us every day. Most of us have come to accept these as a normal part of our day, says Karen Dillon, an authority on leadership, innovation and problem-solving. But cumulatively, they are wearing us down. Micro-stressors slowly increase as our work and home responsibilities grow and our lives become intertwined with others. Unfortunately, few of us are well-equipped to handle this form of stress, and little by little, it eats away at us. So, what do we do? In this interactive session, Dillon shares research pointing to the most valuable resource people can tap into during tough times: their personal and professional relationships. She also leaves time for participants to present their own issues, so she can review the problem and offer solutions. Participants walk away with valuable insights and tools for better understanding and coping with challenges at work, at home and in society.

Creating Prosperity in the Age of COVID

Is it possible for businesses to tap into new markets and increase profits while also reducing poverty and uplifting communities – even in the middle of a pandemic? Yes. In fact, disruptions like the current crisis increase the speed and breadth of innovation processes. The late 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. Drawing from the acclaimed book she co-authored, “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty” (Harper Business, January 2019), Karen Dillon shows how businesses and investors who successfully develop such innovations prosper enormously by generating an entire base of consumers where none previously existed. She will further highlight how a crisis like the pandemic hyper-stimulates idea creation and experimentation. Some of history’s most successful innovations have started in extraordinarily difficult times, says Dillon. The key is to know what you’re looking for, and when innovation takes root – especially in challenging circumstances – prosperity will follow.

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 the late 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 the late 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 the late Clayton 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.

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 empower 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, 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, 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, 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, "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; Author, "People First Leadership"

Praise for Karen Dillon

”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, Co-CEO and Founder, All World Network