HOW TO BUILD AN A-TEAM with Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson is a best-selling author and one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50. She’s an expert in disruptive innovation and personal disruption, and in this interview we talk about how we can tap into our innate human need to grow and develop so that we can drive learning, engagement and innovation in our teams.

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Have you ever wondered why very competent people are so often completely disengaged at work?

It turns out that Time + Competence = Boredom

Whitney Johnson, says that the reason for this is very simple:

Every single person is… A LEARNING MACHINE!

First, we don’t know how to do something.

Then we figure it out.

Then we master it.

And finally, we want to start all over again.

All we want to do is to…LEARN, LEAP AND REPEAT!

When people stop learning at work, they get bored and disengaged, their performance suffers and they can drag the whole team down. You don’t want that to happen. That’s why we need to continuously disrupt ourselves and our teams.

Whitney walks her talk. Her personal story is full of personal disruption, career pivots and new learning curves. She swiftly moved from being an ice-skater, cheerleader, and a pianist with a music degree, to becoming an award-winning equity research analyst on Wall Street (!) – and later – an entrepreneur who co-founded an investment firm specialising in disruptive innovation.

Today, Whitney is a bestselling author, speaker and consultant and she has just set a goal of building a company that makes 10 million dollars in annual revenue. Based on how she works towards her goals (and she does share her process in the interview), this vision will become reality very soon – so watch this space!

Episode highlights

  • The process Whitney follows to accomplish her ambitious goals
  • Whitney’s 16-item morning routine
  • How focusing on our strengths instead of our weaknesses leads to extraordinary results
  • What the S-Curve of Learning is and how to use it to do a quick self and team “health-check”
  • How to go about getting buy-in for our disruptive ideas
  • Where to find the stamina to continue challenging the status quo

Books mentioned in this episode

More about Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson, CEO of WLJ Advisors, is an innovation and disruption theorist, best-selling author, sought-after executive and performance coach, and management consultant. She specializes in helping leaders grow their awareness, building the skills needed to achieve maximum success in their organizations. Senior executives seek out Johnson’s coaching and consulting expertise because she understands that productive workplace cultures begin with the leader; she excels at helping leaders break through to new levels of personal and organizational effectiveness. Johnson’s services utilize her exclusive proprietary tools, such as her S-Curve coaching framework and team disruption diagnostics, which were first developed after co-founding the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. At WLJ Advisors, she has mastered her formula for helping executives and organizations harness the unpredictability of change so they can thrive in today’s volatile business environment.

Whitney’s best-selling new book, Build An A-Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve, is being used by leaders globally to build the culture and attract the talent they need to reach their big goals. This follow-up to her critically acclaimed Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work (2015), outlines the key strategy to having an engaged, productive and innovative workforce, which is having a plan for developing all employees–no matter where they are on their personal learning curves. That’s how organizations retain their top talent and stay competitive. Using her book’s frameworks, Whitney works with leaders to shape how their organizations embrace and manage disruption by leading individuals and teams up the S-curve of change.

Previous to WLJ Advisors, she was an award-winning Wall Street analyst and co-founded the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. She is a frequent keynote speaker and is recognized as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers by Thinkers50 and Fortune. Whitney is one of Marshall Goldsmith’s original cohort of 25 for the #100 Coaches Project, is a coach for Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program, frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, a LinkedIn influencer, and hosts the Disrupt Yourself Podcast. She is married and has two children.

To learn more about Whitney, and her services, please visit

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