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.
- Early professional career
- Back to Harvard
- Consulting and investment firms
- Key takeaways:
- Connected Strategy Frameworks
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.
Consulting and investment firms
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.
- 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.
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