Why Ask Why?

Innovation often begins with a question. In fact, disruptive innovators ask more questions than non-innovators—and their questions tend to be more provocative. That’s what we found in a recent eight-year research project. Our study unveiled five innovation skills (associational thinking, observing, idea networking, experimenting and questioning) that anyone, including CEOs, can use to discover disruptive new business models, products, services and processes. Of these five … [ Read more ]

Clayton Christensen Responds to New Yorker Takedown of ‘Disruptive Innovation’

When the New Yorker this week published Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s sharply written dismissal of “disruptive innovation,” it was an attack on one of the most widely cited and celebrated ideas in modern business. Christensen hasn’t responded in writing to the essay, but when I reached him by phone on Thursday afternoon, it was clear he’d been thinking about it. Consistently described by those who … [ Read more ]

Clayton Christensen

How can you make sense of the future when you only have data about the past? That’s the role of theory, to look into the future.

The Discipline of Managing Disruption

To Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, coauthor of How Will You Measure Your Life?, a primary task of leadership is asking questions that anticipate great challenges.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

In 2010 world-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen gave a powerful speech to the Harvard Business School’s graduating class. Drawing upon his business research, he offered a series of guidelines for finding meaning and happiness in life. He used examples from his own experiences to explain how high achievers can all too often fall into traps that lead to unhappiness.

The speech was memorable not only … [ Read more ]

Clayton Christensen

Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off.

Clayton Christensen

Data is heavy. It wants to go down, not up, in an organization. In other words, most employees, just by the nature of their responsibilities, don’t want to provide data to their bosses. When there’s a problem, they want to solve it and tell the people above them that they solved it. Information about problems thus sinks to the bottom, out of the eyesight and … [ Read more ]

Clayton Christensen

If you’re focused on the job that has to be done, you’ll be more likely to catch the next technology that does it better. If you frame your business by product or technology, you won’t see the next disruptor when it comes along.

Clayton Christensen

A good theory is really a fundamental statement of causality, and it ought to be as applicable to a business unit as it is to a nation, or vice versa.

Clayton Christensen

I’ve met two types of leaders. The first is like Tom West, the leader of the computer-building team at Data General in The Soul of a New Machine. West says in the book that success is like pinball. If you win with one project, you get to play again. I think a lot of senior executives are just that kind of person: They like to … [ Read more ]

Clayton M. Christensen

Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: Opportunities that you never planned for emerge. But if you misinvest your resources, the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who inadvertently invested for lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help believing that their troubles relate right back to a short-term … [ Read more ]

Clayton Christensen

Psychologist Frederick Herzberg’s Two-factor theory… focuses on the idea that the factors that determine job dissatisfaction (“hygiene factors”) are completely separate from those that determine true satisfaction (“motivators”). Insufficient financial compensation, for example, falls into the former camp. But having sufficient compensation will not lead to passion for a job; it just takes away the dissatisfaction. Motivation, according to the theory, is determined not by … [ Read more ]

Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor

Only if managers define market segments that correspond to the circumstances in which customers find themselves when making purchasing decisions can they accurately theorize which products will connect with their customers. We believe that customer segmentation (or categorization) should be based on the notion that customers “hire” products to do specific “jobs.” Doing so will help managers segment their markets to mirror the way their … [ Read more ]

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

World-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen explores the personal benefits of business research in the forthcoming book How Will You Measure Your Life? Co-authored with James Allworth and Karen Dillon, the book explains how well-tested academic theories can help us to find meaning and happiness not just at work, but in life. This excerpt describes how marginal thinking can lead to personal, professional, and moral … [ Read more ]

Research & Ideas Five Discovery Skills that Distinguish Great Innovators

In their new book, The Innovator’s DNA, authors Jeff Dyer, Hal Gergersen, and Clayton M. Christensen build on the idea of disruptive innovation to explain how and why the Steve Jobses and Jeff Bezoses of the world are so successful. This excerpt from Chapter One summarizes the five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from run-of-the-mill managers.

Maximizing the Returns from Research

To profit from technology, companies need to change their strategy and begin selling the embodiment of that technology at the ever-shifting point of modular decoupling.

Clayton M. Christensen and Mark Johnson

The term “business model” often describes the profit formula used by the company to generate its income. However, we have seen fit to increase the scope of the term business model beyond profit model to include how the company delivers value to the customer and, subsequently, how the company organizes resources and processes to support both its profit model and customer value propositions. External interactions … [ Read more ]

The Innovator’s DNA

A major new study involving some 3,500 executives has highlighted the key skills that innovative and creative entrepreneurs need to develop. The six-year-long research into disruptive innovation by INSEAD professor Hal Gregersen, Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Clayton Christensen of Harvard, outlines five ‘discovery’ skills you need. But, says Gregersen, you don’t have to be ‘great in everything.’

Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing

About 95 percent of new products fail. The problem often is that their creators are using an ineffective market segmentation mechanism, according to HBS professor Clayton Christensen. It’s time for companies to look at products the way customers do: as a way to get a job done.

Clayton Christensen

…when product performance outstrips the ability of customers to use that performance in an industry, the competitive game changes. Under those circumstances you have to decouple components businesses from assembly businesses. But I’d rather decouple than divest because the money shifts to the place where nonstandard integration next needs to occur.