What does Clay Christensen know about Social Capital?

How Will You Measure Your LifeIt is a bold question for sure. But after reading his book “How Will You Measure Your Life” for my MBA class, I was surprised to learn Mr. Christensen knew a lot more about social capital that even he himself may realize. Let me explain.

Clay Christensen is world-renown, a Harvard Professor, and a father. He is well educated, experienced, articulate. He has researched corporations, innovation and management practises. He knows business and what it takes to succeed.

But in his book, and after years of research, Mr. Christensen identifies that it is the social connections, the pursuit of happiness in relationships with family and friends, that ultimately brings the greatest joys and rewards, meaning and purpose in our lives. As we make our way through jobs, careers and business he offers sage advice and evidence-based theory on how you can prioritize your time and resources to reflect what is truly important in your life, your social capital.

I read his book thinking, “Here is an accomplished and studied man reflecting on his years of successes, and perhaps failures, offering  readers his refined wisdom”.  What was almost funny was the fact I had heard the same wisdom on focusing on my children, nurturing my relationship with my spouse, keeping in contact with my friends and spending my resources wisely, from my parents (although not in such a formal, well-researched manner). Much of his reflection and guidance validated what my parents have long been saying, value yourself and your family. I went to my parents house and shared this epiphany with them. They just nodded lovingly, still so much to learn!

And it is at this conjecture, the fact that both folk wisdom and evidence-based research say the same thing, that created my A-HA! moment. Social Capital begets Social Capital. If I didn’t have a loving and respectful relationship with my parents and siblings who encouraged me to apply to university at the age of 36, I would not have been fortunate to read Mr. Christensen’s wonderful book. I wouldn’t have created BID Inc from my new found confidence of self and I wouldn’t have been able to help an acquaintance who lost his job to a tragic fire. Through my social connections and diverse network of people that supported me, I developed the knowledge and esteem to pursue my passion, helping others become entrepreneurs.

In my previous blog post, I highlight that the common thread throughout the myriad of definitions for Social Capital is the value in social networks, forming bonds with like-minded people, and bridging diverse groups. Clay Christensen unintentionally identifies the seeds of social capital by suggesting we strengthen our relationships with our children, family and friends.

I genuinely believe that relationships with family and close friends are one of the greatest sources of happiness in life”

– Clay Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life?

I would add that these sources of happiness are in fact the seed to Social Capital. It is the strength and depth of our connections as Clay Christensen writes in Chapter Five, “The Ticking Clock”, that I believe makes the difference in creating and sustaining social capital.

An old proverb once said Charity begins at home. I would suggest that Social Capital begins at home as well.

– Georgina


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