For a man who specializes in describing the disruption and anger invoked in big business, it’s interesting how much Clayton Christensen is remembered.
“We were heartbroken today to learn of the death of Clayton Christensen”, says Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School. “Her loss will be deeply felt throughout our community. Clayton’s brilliance and kindness was evident to everyone he met as well, and his legacy will last. Through his research and teaching, he has fundamentally shaped the practice of business and influenced generations of students and academics.
His passing sparked a wave of generous praise and heartfelt stories about Christensen, the thinker, but perhaps even more so, Christensen the man. Since the death of Peter Drucker, a management thinker is not so fondly remembered. The difference unfortunately is that Drucker went to 99, Christensen to 67.
The core of Christensen’s Thought is distilled in his book, The innovator’s dilemma. It tells stories, and there are a lot of stories about how low-end, cheap products come to market, and because they’re adopted so easily because of their cost and usefulness, they disrupt the giants of the industry. This effect has occurred in steel, disc players, heavy equipment, and radio technologies. Christensen wondered how big companies could keep their edge if they were constantly underestimated.
Therein lies the challenge, and while Christensen posed some answers, the real answer is that nothing in business, as in life, is guaranteed. You have to keep innovating if you want to be successful. “When giants fail” by Larissa MacFarquhar in The New Yorker portray a man who spoke of disturbance but did not do so with malice or animosity. As a professor at Harvard Business School he was tall (6’8 “) and courteous. With a warm smile and engaging manners, people came to him and they listened to him. All tech titans -dom — Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Reed Hastings, Michael Bloomberg — listened to it.
“Christensen was a generous man,” MacFarquhar wrote. “He didn’t like to call people fools, and besides, the same managers we called fools today were called geniuses last week, when the business was doing well and they were doing exactly what they were doing now.
Not everyone agreed with Christensen. “There are criticisms which are very important”, Christensen Recount Quartz magazine. “A theory never appears in complete form. Rather, the first appearance of the theory is half done. Then it gets better when people say, ‘that doesn’t explain that’ or ‘it is. an anomaly, and that doesn’t explain it. It’s very important to have people willing to criticize him for this. “
Christensen was a man of deep faith. He grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a mission in Korea. He remained active in the LDS Church throughout his days. Clark Gilbert, a protégé of Christensen and now president of BYU-Pathways, told the Deseret News, those who did not believe in God or were not religious found themselves pondering spiritual ideas because of the conversations and writings of Clay Christensen. “How will you measure your life? Has influenced so many people. He had this ability to speak shamelessly and with deep conviction and courage about things of faith and God with people who did not think they were religious. He found ways to not only engage them personally, but also to engage them intellectually in a way that caused them to begin to really think about spiritual matters in a way they never would have had without someone. like Clay.
Perhaps it was his faith that sustained Christensen through the upheavals he endured. His health began to decline decades ago, and by 2010 he had lost the ability to speak due to a stroke. Christensen did not abandon public life, however. He has relearned himself to speak. To a storyteller, words are the essence of life and meaning, and a man who can handle them still lives.
Fortunately, Christensen’s words endure through his books and his many recordings. Her example also reinforces her message of resilience and struggle in the effort to achieve something better tomorrow than what we can achieve today.