clayton-christensen

Who Is Clayton Christensen?

Clayton Christensen was a business and academic consultant who introduced the theory of disruptive innovation in this 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma. The theory is widely considered to be one of the most important ideas in modern business.

Christensen was a gifted and charismatic storyteller whose ideas and philosophies were followed by the likes of Steve Jobs, Reed Hastings, and Intel’s Andy Grove. In 2013, Christensen was named the most influential living management thinker at an event held by the British company Thinkers50.

Education

Christensen, a devout Mormon, chose Brigham Young University over offers from Harvard and Yale once he left high school in 1970.

Awarded a full scholarship, he majored in economics and could count U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney among his first-year classmates.

After a two-year hiatus to serve as a missionary for his church in Korea, Christensen graduated in 1975 with honors in economics.

He was later accepted into Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar where he received a Masters of Philosophy in 1977.

Two years later, he added an MBA from Harvard Business School to his growing list of accomplishments.

Early professional career

Christensen started his professional career as a project manager and consultant with Boston Consulting Group.

Whilst there, he took another leave of absence to work as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s personal assistant in 1982 where he later became a White House Fellow.

In 1984, Christensen helped start the Ceramics Process Systems Corporation (CPS) with several professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Christensen lead the advanced materials company for a few years but was fired in 1987 after the Black Monday stock market crash caused the company’s share price to plummet.

Back to Harvard

Despite classes having started for the year, Christensen was able to enroll at Harvard as a PhD student.

He knew future Harvard Business school dean and CPS board member Kim Clark, who rang the head of the doctoral program on Christensen’s behalf to pull some strings.

Christensen received his doctorate in 1992 and joined the Harvard Business School Faculty to become a full professor after just six years.

While pursuing his DBA, Christensen began research into disruptive innovation which lead to the publication of his book The Innovators Dilemma

He would go on to write more than nine best-selling books and more than 100 articles on innovation, growth, and disruption.

Consulting and investment firms

Christensen founded consulting firm Innosight in 2000 which applied his own theories of innovation to enable companies to develop growth opportunities.

Innosight Ventures was subsequently launched which focused on investments in the SE Asia region.

In 2007, he founded Rose Park Advisors, a firm that identifies and then invests in disruptive companies.

In pursuit of more philanthropic endeavors, Christensen also launched the non-profit Christensen Institute with a mission to solve vexing societal problems in areas such as education and healthcare.

Christensen died in 2020 at the age of 67 after a short battle with leukemia. 

Key takeaways:

  • Clayton Christensen was a business and academic consultant who introduced the theory of disruptive innovation in this 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma.
  • Christensen started his professional career as a project manager and consultant with Boston Consulting Group and helped found the advanced materials company CPS in 1984. Sacked after the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash, Christensen enrolled as a PhD student at Harvard and become a full professor in 1998.
  • Christensen founded Innosight in 2000, a consultancy firm that uses his own theories of innovation to enable companies to develop growth opportunities. Related companies in the venture capital industry include Innosight Ventures and Rose Park Advisors.

Read Next: Disruptive Innovation.

Connected Strategy Frameworks

Ansoff Matrix

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You can use the Ansoff Matrix as a strategic framework to understand what growth strategy is more suited based on the market context. Developed by mathematician and business manager Igor Ansoff, it assumes a growth strategy can be derived by whether the market is new or existing, and the product is new or existing.

ReadAnsoff Matrix In A Nutshell

BCG Matrix

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In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

ReadBCG Matrix

Balanced Scorecard

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First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.

ReadBalanced Scorecard

Blue Ocean Strategy

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A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created. At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken. Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

ReadBlue Ocean Strategy

PEST Analysis

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The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

ReadPestel Analysis

Scenario Planning

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Businesses use scenario planning to make assumptions on future events and how their respective business environments may change in response to those future events. Therefore, scenario planning identifies specific uncertainties – or different realities and how they might affect future business operations. Scenario planning attempts at better strategic decision making by avoiding two pitfalls: underprediction, and overprediction.

ReadScenario Planning

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

ReadSWOT Analysis In A Nutshell

Growth Matrix

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In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

ReadGrowth Matrix In A Nutshell

Comparable Analysis Framework

comparable-company-analysis
A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

ReadComparable Analysis Framework In A Nutshell

Business Model Canvas

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The business model canvas is a framework proposed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur in Busines Model Generation enabling the design of business models through nine building blocks comprising: key partners, key activities, value propositions, customer relationships, customer segments, critical resources, channels, cost structure, and revenue streams.

ReadBusiness Model Canvas In A Nutshell

Business Experimentation 

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Business experiments help entrepreneurs test their hypotheses. Rather than define the problem by making too many hypotheses, a digital entrepreneur can formulate a few assumptions, design experiments, and check them against the actions of potential customers. Once measured, the impact, the entrepreneur, will be closer to define the problem.

ReadBusiness Experimentation

Speed Reversibility

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The speed-reversibility Matrix, by FourWeekMBA will help you understand how to allocate the resources based on the worst-case-scenario-test.

ReadSpeed-Reversibility Matrix

Blue Ocean

blue-ocean-strategy
A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created. At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken. Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

ReadBlue Ocean Strategy

BCG Matrix

bcg-matrix
In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Read moreBCG Matrix

AIDA Model

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AIDA stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. That is a model that is used in marketing to describe the potential journey a customer might go through before purchasing a product or service. The AIDA model helps organizations focus their efforts when optimizing their marketing activities based on the customers’ journeys.

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Pirate Funnel

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Venture capitalist, Dave McClure, coined the acronym AARRR which is a simplified model that enables to understand what metrics and channels to look at, at each stage for the users’ path toward becoming customers and referrers of a brand.

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