Remembering the “Father of ‘disruptive innovation'” Dr. Clayton Christensen

Monday, January, 27, 2020

Remembering the “Father of ‘disruptive innovation'” Dr. Clayton Christensen

Monday, January, 27, 2020

ICSB takes a moment to remember Dr. Clayton Christensen


How He Changed How We Look at Entrepreneurship

Dr. Clayton Christensen was a Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “disruptive innovation”. He passed away on January 23rd due to complications from leukemia. We remember him for his contributions in business and entrepreneurship, in which he taught us how to think about innovation differently.

A paradoxical answer he found when asked “Why do companies fail? Or rather: How is it that a small start-up can take on an industry giant and win?” was that many companies succeeded not by making something better, but by building something worse, manufacturing shoddy and inexpensive products that catered to the low end of the market. The Harvard Business review expands on this by saying:

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources can successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality—frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred.

Dr. Christensen made these findings mainstream in his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (1997) which propelled him to relative stardom after Intel executive Andy Grove called it the most important book he’d read in a decade. He also appeared on a 1999 cover of Forbes, and The Economist magazine later named “The Innovator’s Dilemma” one of the six greatest business books ever written. “Everybody talks about disruption now,” investor and tech writer George Gilder told the New Yorker in 2012. “Clayton inserted that word in the mind of every CEO in technology. Everywhere you go, people explain that they’re disrupting this or disrupting that.”

Dr. Clayton Christensen will be forever immortalized by his term “disruptive innovation” as it has inspired countless entrepreneurs and business leaders to think differently about their operations. His countless lessons and advice will be furthered realized as we see entrepreneurs innovate even more so than they have in the past. This is just one of the ways Dr. Christensen’s memory will live on among us.

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