Clayton M. Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who wrote "The Innovator’s Dilemma," which cemented his reputation as superstar management guru, has passed away at age 67. The cause was complications for leukemia.
An excerpt from the New York Times obituary:
"The Innovator’s Dilemma" … was published during the technology boom of the late 1990s. It trumpeted Professor Christensen’s assertion that the factors that helped the best companies succeed - listening responsively to customers, investing aggressively in technology products that satisfied customers’ next-generation needs - were the exact same reasons some of these companies failed.
"These corporate giants were so focused on doing the very things that had been taught for generations at the nation’s top business schools, he wrote, that they were blindsided by small, fast-moving, innovative companies that were able to enter markets nimbly with disruptive products and services and grab large chunks of market share. By laying out a blueprint for how executives could identify and respond to these disruptive forces, Professor Christensen, himself an entrepreneur and former management consultant, struck a chord with high-tech corporate leaders."
The Times also has this observation about Christensen:
"On the last day of his management class every semester, he wrote, he asked his students to “turn those theoretical lenses on themselves” and answer three questions: 'First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?'
"He noted that several former classmates, including Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executive of Enron, had spent time in prison. 'These were good guys — but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction,' he wrote. Ultimately, the realization that his ideas had generated enormous revenue for companies that used his research left him dissatisfied. 'I know I’ve had substantial impact,' he wrote. 'But as I’ve confronted this disease, it’s been interesting to see how unimportant that impact is on me now. 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.
"'Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved,' he continued; 'worry about the individuals you have helped become better people'."