Top 112 Quotes & Sayings by Clayton Christensen

Explore popular quotes and sayings by an American professor Clayton Christensen.
Clayton Christensen

Clayton Magleby Christensen was an American academic and business consultant who developed the theory of "disruptive innovation", which has been called the most influential business idea of the early 21st century. Christensen introduced "disruption" in his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma, and it led The Economist to term him "the most influential management thinker of his time." He served as the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School (HBS), and was also a leader and writer in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. ... When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.
If you defer investing your time and energy until you see that you need to, chances are it will already be too late.
Disruptive innovations create jobs, efficiency innovations destroy them. — © Clayton Christensen
Disruptive innovations create jobs, efficiency innovations destroy them.
The answer is the disruptive innovator, an outsider, who creates a product or service for the non-existing consumer in a non-existing market for almost no profit.
Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.
You can't find returns in investments you haven't made.
When I have my interview with my God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen, whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage—a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics of that matter in measuring my life. This realization, which occurred nearly fifteen years ago, guided me every day to seek opportunities to help people in ways tailored to their individual circumstances. My happiness and my sense of worth has been immeasurably improved as a result.
Disruptive technology is a theory. It says this will happen and this is why; it's a statement of cause and effect. In our teaching we have so exalted the virtues of data-driven decision making that in many ways we condemn managers only to be able to take action after the data is clear and the game is over. In many ways a good theory is more accurate than data. It allows you to see into the future more clearly.
Focus is scary—until you realize that it only means turning your back on markets you could never have anyway. Sharp focus on jobs that customers are trying to get done holds the promise of greatly improving the odds of success in new-product development.
If you just look at the data, you are led to believe that things are getting better, rather than worse. That's why the fall is really precipitous, once you hit the ceiling.
The mistake managers often make is defining their industry too narrowly. Digital's market share in the minicomputer market stayed very robust even as it fell off the cliff. Disruption seems to come out of nowhere, but if you know what to look for, you can spot important developments well before the market does.
How can you make sense of the future when you only have data about the past?
Doing deals doesn't yield the deep rewards that come from building up people. — © Clayton Christensen
Doing deals doesn't yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.
There are more than 9,000 billing codes for individual procedures and units of care. But there is not a single billing code for patient adherence or improvement, or for helping patients stay well.
In 15 years from now half of US universities may be in bankruptcy ... in the end I'm excited to see that happen. So pray for Harvard Business School if you wouldn't mind.
Core competence, as it is used by many managers, is a dangerously inward-looking notion. Competitiveness is far more about doing what customers value than doing what you think you're good at.
In our lives and in our careers, whether we are aware of it or not, we are constantly navigating a path by deciding between our deliberate strategies and the unanticipated alternatives that emerge.
By the time it becomes obvious that a technology will have truly disruptive impact, it is often too late to take action. This is one reason why we are such advocates of using theory to try to analyze industry change. Conclusive evidence that proves that a company needs to take action almost never exists. In fact, the data can fool management, lulling them into a false sense of security.
It is a company's customers who effectively control what it can and cannot do.
The only useful information about the market will be what I create through expeditions into the market, through testing and probing, trial and error, by selling real products to real people who pay real money.
You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy for your life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy. In the end, a strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it's effectively implemented.
I was lucky enough to build on the work of a number of people who had already run laps around this theory-building track. The original classification scheme, years ago, distinguished radical from incremental change. The theory said that established firms managed incremental change well, but would be expected to founder when their industry encountered a radical change.
Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.
My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it's practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.
Don't worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.
Almost always great new ideas don't emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before.
The innovations are far more important because the technology itself has now way to impact the world for good until it's embedded in the business model. Innovation it's the combination of the simplifying technology and the business model.
Motivation is the catalyzing ingredient for every successful innovation. The same is true for learning.
If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you'll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification.
If a company truly wants to resolve the innovator's dilemma, it does need to be able to create wave after wave of disruptive innovation. And those disruptive innovations will typically grow to the point where they do cause some pain for leading companies. But most disruptive innovations create substantial new growth before they cause that pain.
Steve Jobs and Apple taught us that profit is not the ultimate goal, but rather a consequence of something greater.
Innovation almost always is not successful the first time out. You try something and it doesn't work and it takes confidence to say we haven't failed yet. Ultimately you become commercially successful.
Intimate, loving, and enduring relationships with our family and close friends will be among the sources of the deepest joy in our lives.
The biggest mistake is an over-reliance on data. Managers will say if there are no data they can take no action. However, data only exist about the past. By the time data become conclusive, it is too late to take actions based on those conclusions.
Purpose must be deliberately conceived and chosen, and then pursued.
Only the general manager can mold the resources, processes, and values that affect innovation , into a coherent capability to develop and launch superior new products and services repeatedly.
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. You have to ask the question - you have to want to know - in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.
Disruption is, at its core, a really powerful idea, but everyone hijacks the idea to do whatever they want now. — © Clayton Christensen
Disruption is, at its core, a really powerful idea, but everyone hijacks the idea to do whatever they want now.
If you take away religion, you can't hire enough police.
One of the factors that make great companies so great is that they have processes that allow them to solve difficult problems again and again. These processes have developed over time as teams have successfully wrestled with a certain type of challenge. Eventually, people begin to say, "This is just how we do something around here." The problem develops when that team then has to solve a very different set of challenges. The processes that are such strengths can be crushing liabilities.
Its actually really important that you succeed at what youre succeeding at, but that isnt going to be the measure of your life.
If the theory accurately predicts what they [scientists] see, it confirms that it's a good theory. If they see something that the theory didn't lead them to believe, that's what Thomas Kuhn calls an anomaly. The anomaly requires a revised theory - and you just keep going through the cycle, making a better theory.
There's usually some process by which a potentially great idea gets prostituted into something lacklustre, or by which the wrong idea gets put forward.
I've concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn't dollars, but the individual people whose lives I've touched. I think that's the way it will work for us all. Don't worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.
Businesses want to think in terms of categories. Consumers want us to think in terms of their needs.
What you need is a fundamental humility - the belief that you can learn from anyone.
Management is the most noble of professions if it's practiced well.
Innovation simply isn't as unpredictable as many people think. There isn't a cookbook yet, but we're getting there. — © Clayton Christensen
Innovation simply isn't as unpredictable as many people think. There isn't a cookbook yet, but we're getting there.
If you want to make better theory, you've got to use the best that's available and look through the lens of another discipline to see if you can uncover more anomalies. By looking at the phenomena of failure from the perspective of sales, marketing, finance, general management, and the equity markets, I was able to see things that Rebecca [Henderson] hadn't.'s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time.
But actually theory is very practical. Gravity is a theory, for example. It allows you to predict that if you step off a cliff you will fall; you don't have to collect data on that.
I've concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn't dollars but the individual people whose lives I've touched.
People still cling to this belief that innovation is just random and unpredictable. But if you look closely, there are some real patterns. The companies that recognize and take advantage of those patterns have the real opportunity to create competitive advantage.
The reason why it is so difficult for existing firms to capitalize on disruptive innovations is that their processes and their business model that make them good at the existing business actually make them bad at competing for the disruption. Companies in fact are specifically organized to under-invest in disruptive innovations! This is one reason why we often suggest that companies set up separate teams or groups to commercialize disruptive innovations. When disruptive innovations have to fight with other innovations for resources, they tend to lose out.
Watching how customers actually use a product provides much more reliable information than can be gleaned from a verbal interview or a focus group.
Breaking an old business model is always going to require leaders to follow their instinct. There will always be persuasive reasons not to take a risk. But if you only do what worked in the past, you will wake up one day and find that you’ve been passed by.
The best strategy is a balance between having a deliberate one, and a flexible, or emergent strategy.
Children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.
Because if the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat, and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person.
Another thing I've observed is how critical the role of the CEO is when a technology truly is disruptive. In looking back on companies that have successfully launched independent disruptive business units, the CEO always had a foot in both camps. Never have they succeeded when they spin something off in order to get it off the CEO's agenda. The CEOs that did this had extraordinary personal self-confidence, and almost always they were the founders of the companies.
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