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PODCAST: Disrupt yourself first

In our latest podcast, The Mentor List’s David Lewis catches up with the author of the critically acclaimed ‘Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work’ Whitney Johnson.

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" Companies don’t just disrupt, people do too."
Whitney Johnson, author and influential management thinker

Johnson was recognised as one of the world's most influential management thinkers in 2015 and was formerly an Institutional Investor-ranked analyst for eight consecutive years at Merrill Lynch.

She is the host of the Disrupt Yourself podcast, a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review,LinkedInfluencer, and a co-founder of Forty Women over 40 to Watch

The Mentor List - #20 Whitney Johnson - Disrupt yourself

What happens when you’ve reached the top of your game and there’s nowhere to go?

Johnson, at the time a highly successful executive, reached that point.

“I didn’t realise it at the time but I had already become a disrupter within my own space,” she said. “Because I was at the top of my game I thought it was time to do something different and new and exciting."

"I began to think it was the time to do something new and something which excited me the way in which equity research had when I first began."

“I remember telling this to one of the very senior executives of the firm and discussing my desire to move into management. He dismissed me and almost laughed at me. I realised then the potential wasn’t there, that they were comfortable with me in the current position and wouldn’t want to lose me as an equity researcher.”

Applying the logic she had taken from reading the Innovator’s Dilemma on a personal level, Johnson decided to disrupt herself.

“It became apparent that if I wanted to achieve something in my life, I couldn’t do it where I was, that I needed to become an entrepreneur," she said.

“If I really wanted to accomplish something in my life, I wasn’t going to be able to do it at [Merrill Lynch] because they didn’t want me to do anything new.

“So what I got into my head was alright if I want to make a difference, if I want to make a dent in the universe, if I want to keep moving forward, I’m going to need to jump off this wonderful train that I’m on - which is prestigious and lucrative etc - and become an entrepreneur.

“I disrupted myself and left Wall Street to become an entrepreneur.”

Johnson didn’t think to call herself a disruptor then, but that is exactly what she has done.

“Companies don’t just disrupt, people do too,” she said. 

This podcast is from The Mentor List and is part of their ongoing series on learning from industry leaders and the world's top business minds about their personal experience; including their daily habits, challenges and advice for generating passion and engagements. .

For more see the Mentor List’s full coverage.

David Lewis is an Australian business professional and founder of The Mentor List.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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