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Find a Job Using Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovators ask the right questions, observe the world like anthropologists, network for novel ideas, and experiment to make things work. (For a more detailed look at these skills, see The Innovator’s DNA).

Applying the skills disruptive innovators use to your job search can help you unearth more, and better, opportunities. Here’s how:

Step 1. Start asking the right questions (and stop asking the wrong ones).

Asking questions can create patterns of activity that compound daily into solutions, for better and for worse. Instead of asking “What job can I find today?” what if you asked, “What kind of job can I create today?” The slight twist of one word, from find to create, might hold the key to more helpful answers.

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Marketing in Revolutionary Times

We’re living in a time of uprisings — you just have to pick up the newspaper to know that. Depending on what day it is, you’re apt to find front-page stories of folks taking to the streets in Russia, Syria, Greece, India, you name it. Even in the U.S., we’ve seen the Occupy Wall Street movement (which, at the moment, may seem like yesterday’s news — but it’s likely to resurface as the weather warms and the political season heats up). Small wonder that when Time magazine chose their “Person of the Year”, it wasn’t a business or political leader that made the cover — it was a masked rabble-rouser called “The Protester.”

For those of us in business, it may seem as if all of this is transpiring in a separate realm, well outside the corporate bubble. Unless the protesters are specifically targeting your business, it’s natural to think, “This new era of protest makes for lively news, but has nothing to do with my company or brand.” But the new social unrest is everybody’s business, including yours and mine.

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Why Companies Are Betting Against Big Ideas

When given a choice between getting $1,000 with certainty, or having a 50% chance of getting $2,500, most people will choose the certain $1,000 — even though the expected value (the average value over repeated trials) of the uncertain option is $1,250. Most people would reject a gamble where they would gain $100 if a fair coin lands on heads, and lose $100 when the coin lands on tails, because losses have a much higher impact than gains.

This idea of prospect theory, developed by Tversky and Kahneman and reported in a classic 1979 article (for which the Nobel prize was awarded) demonstrated that individuals do not make decisions rationally by selecting options with the highest expected value, because they are risk-averse and ‘losses loom larger than gains.’

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Diversify Your Dreams

If you ever want to lie awake at night, go ahead and think about your “one thing” — the one thing you were born to do, the one career you were built to succeed at, and the one person you were destined to spend the rest of your life with. Attempting to solve these impossible optimization riddles is a sure path to emotional turmoil, an unsatisfying professional life, and, well, a pretty bleary-eyed morning.

In writing Passion and Purpose, I learned that smart, well-intentioned individuals have a destructive tendency to oversimplify their passions and dreams, distilling them down to a series of these “one things.” I saw a young accountant’s elaborate plan to land his dream job of becoming CEO of a professional services firm, else be considered a failure. I witnessed one of my peers who, just days after her wedding, became absolutely angst-ridden about whether she had married her one universal soul mate. Still others float from job to job, from life tragedy to triumph, in the never-ending quest to discover their one purpose.

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Reimagining Capitalism

While the global financial meltdown and its aftershocks have unleashed a flood of indignation, condemnation, and protest upon Wall Street, the crisis has exposed a deeper distrust and implacable resentment of capitalism itself.

Capitalism might be the greatest engine of prosperity and progress ever devised, but in recent years, individuals and communities have grown increasingly disgruntled with the implicit contract that governs the rights and responsibilities of business. The global economy and the Internet have heightened our sense of interconnectedness and sharpened our awareness that when a business focuses only on enriching investors, it implies that managers view the interests of customers, employees, communities and the fate of the planet as little more than cost trade-offs in a quarter-by-quarter game.

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