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Claire Diaz-Ortiz Talks Productivity and How to Lead The Better Life


Claire Diaz-Ortiz is one of those women who seems to have figured it out. She’s a productivity, work/life guru. She was an early employee at Twitter, Inc. and was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, working with brands around the globe to understand and leverage Twitter to make a difference. She’s a six-time author (Twitter for Good), speaker and startup advisor. Yes, you’ll want to follow her @Claire. She’s also a LinkedIn Influencer and blogger.

She was an early supporter of Harvest Summit and was going to co-lead our session on social innovation and we’re bummed she can’t join us on November, 4. But she has a fantastic reason. She’s on bedrest expecting twins! She contributes this piece from her fancy new pull out sofa bed in her office in Argentina. #Trooper

Subscribe to her insightful blog and pass on a piece of Happiness – one of her books The Better Life is one of our favorite things to gift.

What was it about our vision for Harvest Summit that excited you when we first met?

I think more and more as I experience the world of modern conferences I’m intrigued and attracted to events that put the people front and center. Intimate gatherings (I think of intimacy as an attitude — not a size issue) are an art to create and cultivate, and I think that when an event is able to figure out how to tap into the sense of intimacy to extend knowledge and relationships, they’ve found something special. Harvest Summit seemed like just such a place.

You were an early employee at Twitter and Head of Corporate Social Innovation and Philanthropy. How do you define Corporate Social Innovation?

Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss is the one who first coined the term — and when we were coming up with a name for my role back in the day it was her work that had inspired the title. In her mind, the meaning behind Corporate Social Responsibility had so many flaws that a new word — and a new idea — was needed. Hence Corporate Social Innovation.

Your first book was Twitter for Good. How has your vision of Twitter as a platform for social good evolved since then?

So very much! In the beginning, when I wasn’t yet working at Twitter and was tweeting from an orphanage in Kenya where I ran a nonprofit, what I was doing was unusual. People didn’t think of Twitter as a tool to be used in such a situation. And then in the early days of my time at the company, it was more of the same. We would find amazing use cases of Twitter being used for good and would be blown away by their uniqueness — these days, although they would still be amazing, they would not be so unique — since they happen all over the world, every minute of every day. Twitter’s use in social good has, over time, become a known part of its power.

Productivity has been a key theme in your career, was there an aha moment in your life that sparked your passion about this?

Actually, it was working at Twitter that really changed things for me. Beforehand, I had been a social entrepreneur in Africa, and a writer and blogger, and so had really owned my time. At Twitter, especially as the company grew, I experienced all the typical challenges that come with working in an organization — first a small one, and then a big one. I really realized along the way that no matter how new and innovative an organization is, most organizations today still think about productivity and success at work in quite dated terms. It made me realize that the challenge we have in helping people within organizations be able to really be as effective and productive at work as possible often lies more with the organization itself than with the people themselves.

You held your first Work by Design Summit, this year to change the way we work, any unexpected takeaways?

With almost 15,000 folks showing up for the online summit, we got a LOT of feedback. Much of it was relatively expected, and ran along themes that I anticipated, but there was one theme that really surprised me. I learned that there is this overwhelming myth when it comes to productivity that working for yourself (and thus owning your time) is the only way to really get things done efficiently. In reality — the truth couldn’t be farther than the truth. So many of us find that when we don’t have the constraints of a larger organization we are too much at sea to get anything done at all. Ultimately, it’s a balance — finding a way to help organizations understand the power of personal productivity, and encouraging them to make changes to prioritize the personal productivity of their employees.

You live, write and work in Argentina, how has that culture informed your working style and productivity?

I think more than anything being far from the heart of Silicon Valley (where I got my start, and where many of my current work ties and projects remain) makes me see it with perspective. Firstly, I now see quite clearly that there’s a whole other world out there, and that startups can do great things in other places, and don’t need to always, somehow, make their way to California (sounds silly — but I feel like it’s actually something I had to learn! Newsflash: smart innovators exist outside of Samovar Tea Lounge!).

Secondly, being so far away has helped me to clarify the value of relationships, and understanding the importance of cultivating relationships in person when I’m there, but then knowing how to continue collaboration from afar. Our world will only become more and more globalized, and so learning how to work in such a dynamic is essential.

You set annual reading goals for yourself, 150+ books a year!  Why is that important to you?  How do you select the books you read?

Yes! I love reading, and over the last few years my goal has been 150-200 each year, depending. Although I’m pretty regimented about knowing how much time I need to spend each week to hit my annual goal, I would say that one of the big things I’ve been trying to do is become much LESS regimented with what I read. For years I read very few novels, and tended to inundate myself with business or motivational non-fiction. These days, I’m trying to find more page-turners, and more excuses to disappear in a book. We do our best work in life when we also have time to rest and rejuvenate, and I’m trying to make reading take on more of that role for me.

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