Clay Christensen

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Foremost Authority on Innovation and Father of Disruptive Innovation Theory; Author, Revolutionary Book “The Innovator’s Dilemma;” Co-Author, “The Prosperity Paradox” (2019)

Biography

“Instead of telling him what to think, I told him how to think.” It’s a simple quote that embodies the mission – and mantra – of Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen: encourage inquiry. It’s also at the root of his disruptive innovation theory, which has defined 21stcentury business and continues to profoundly impact organizations and their leaders across the globe.

Professor Christensen’s enduring legacy will be an idea he first put forward in his book, “The Innovator’s Solution” (2003): don’t sell products and services to customers; address their jobs to be done. This seemingly simple idea holds powerful potential for reframing industries. The Jobs to be Done theory is the focus of his recently published book, “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperCollins, October 2016). By understanding what causes customers to “hire” a product or service, businesses can improve innovation track records and uncover new growth opportunities. The Jobs to be Done framework has been applied by companies across multiple industries, helping to drive innovation, transformation and survival in an era of disruption.

More recently, Professor Christensen has turned his attention to an even broader and deeply rooted issue: solving the dilemma of global poverty and the persistent gap between rich and poor countries. His powerfully written, critically acclaimed book with Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon, “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty” (HarperBusiness, January 2019), constitutes a revolution in the way businesses, governments, and nonprofits think about economic development. Starting with the premise that the world’s poor are also looking for solutions to jobs to be done, Professor Christensen and his co-authors provide in-depth case studies of how entrepreneurs and innovative companies have introduced new products and services for people who never consumed them before or thought they even needed them. In the process, these market-creating innovations have uplifted millions of people from poverty and transformed entire societies. “The Prosperity Paradox,” which was awarded an Axiom Business Book Awards “Gold Medal” in the category of Business Ethics for 2019, offers an alternative to the conventional development model of “pushing” resources into deprived communities, instead emphasizing the dynamic role of innovation and its potential to “pull” in prosperity organically.

A world-renowned innovation strategy and growth expert, Professor Christensen is repeatedly recognized as one of the most influential living management thinkers in the world (Thinkers50). He upended conventional management thinking with his seminal book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (Harvard Business School Press, 1997), which explored the radical paradox that great companies fail by making the “right” decisions in the “wrong” situations. The New York Times best-seller has been translated into 18 languages, sold in more than 25 countries and has deeply influenced some of the greatest business leaders of our time – among them Apple’s Steve Jobs, business magnate Michael Bloomberg and Intel CEO Andy Grove.

In addition to his work on innovation in business and global economics, Professor Christensen also continues to focus the lens of disruptive innovation on the high-income world’s most pressing social problems: health care and education. In 2014, his HBR article, “The Capitalist’s Dilemma,” urged U.S. political leaders to evaluate outdated policies and embrace counterintuitive measures that can help improve our global economies. His best-selling books – “The Innovator’s Prescription” (2008), “Disrupting Class” (2008) and “The Innovative University” (2011) – alongside the rich research and practical work of nonprofit, non-partisan think tank The Clayton Christensen Institute, offer unique frameworks for better understanding and addressing these ever-evolving challenges.

A widely sought speaker, advisor and board member, Professor Christensen’s research continues to be applied to national economies, start-up and Fortune 50 companies, as well as to early- and late-stage investing. He is also an experienced entrepreneur, having started three successful companies: CPS Technologies, innovation consulting firm Innosight, and investment firm Rose Park Advisors. He currently serves as a board member at Tata Consulting Services (NSE: TCS), Franklin Covey (NYSE: FC) and Ensign Group, Inc.

And yet, for all Professor Christensen has accomplished in his professional life, he urges people not to reserve “your best business thinking for your career.” Too often, he says, “we measure success in life against the progress we make in our careers.” This personal and provocative advice is detailed in his McKinsey Award-winning article turned New York Times best-selling book, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” (2012), in which he encourages all of us to think about what is truly important.

Clayton Christensen is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Books & Research

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

(HarperBusiness, January 2019)

How Disruptive Innovation Can Finally Revolutionize Healthcare

(Christensen Institute, Spring 2017)

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

(Harper Business, October 2016)

The Clayton M. Christensen Reader

(Harvard Business Review Press, February 2016)

Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution

(Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, July 2014)

Is K–12 Blended Learning Disruptive? An Introduction of the Theory of Hybrids

(Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, May 2013)

How Will You Measure Your Life?

(HarperCollins, May 2012)

The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out

(Jossey-Bass, July 2011)

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

(Harvard Business School Publishing, July 2011)

The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care

(McGraw-Hill, December 2008)

Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

(McGraw-Hill, May 2008)

Seeing What's Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change

(Harvard Business Review Press, September 2004)

The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth

(Harvard Business School Press, September 2003)

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

(Harvard Business School Press, 1997)

Media

Can Corruption Ever Be Eliminated in the World? Boss Tweed and Napster Show a Counterintuitive Path Forward

April 3, 2019

Inside Higher Ed logo

Perilous Times

April 1, 2019

Deseret News logo

Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

March 14, 2019

Want to End Poverty? Go Easy on the Aid

March 5, 2019

Want to Foster Prosperity? Focus on Market-Creating Innovations

February 14, 2019

Wall Street Journal logo

"The Prosperity Paradox" Review: A Better Way to Fight Poverty

January 30, 2019

Entrepreneurs Can Have a Direct Impact on the Eradication of Extreme Poverty in the World. Here's How.

January 25, 2019

Forbes logo

Worm Capital Q&A With Clayton Christensen on Innovation -- And His New Book "The Prosperity Paradox"

January 23, 2019

Poverty Data Never Tells the Whole Story

January 22, 2019

Linkedin Logo

After 25 Years Studying Innovation, Here is What I have Learned

January 18, 2019

Fortune logo

How 1850's America Offers a Model for Escaping Poverty

January 17, 2019

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty

January 15, 2019

What a Global Prosperity Researcher Learned about Failure in His Mission to End World Poverty

January 15, 2019

How We Build National Institutions Plays a Crucial Role in Ensuring Prosperity for Developing Nations

January 15, 2019

Inc

How 1 Company - and its Insanely Popular and Cheap Noodles - Transformed Nigeria

January 11, 2019

Innovation is the Answer

January 7, 2019

New England Doesn't Need New Factories. But It Does Need New Ideas

January 2, 2019

Inc

10 Business Books You Need to Read in 2019

January 2, 2019

Innovation Guru Clayton Christensen Calls For Korea to be More Disruptive

January 1, 2019

Harvard Business Review logo

Cracking Frontier Markets

January/February 2019

Forbes logo

Go Electric: Innovation Guru Clayton Christensen's Advice To South Africa

October 30, 2018

Clayton Christensen Institute logo

Let's Not Simply End Poverty. Let's Ignite Prosperity

October 17, 2018

Harvard Business School Professor: Half of American Colleges Will be Bankrupt in 10 to 15 Years

August 30, 2018

B2B Next Speaker Spotlight: Harvard's Clay Christensen on 'Disruptive Innovation'

July 10, 2018

Harvard Business Review logo

The Innovation Health Care Really Needs: Help People Manage Their Own Health

October 30, 2017

Huffington Post logo

Digital Transformation – Part IV: The Two Big Jobs To Be Done

October 7, 2017

How Hospitals Innovate Incorrectly, According to Clayton Christensen

October 1, 2017

What the Banking Industry Can Learn from Nokia's Demise

September 25, 2017

The hill logo

Holistic Care Teams Can Finally Revolutionize Healthcare

July 10, 2017

How Disruptive Innovation Can Finally Revolutionize Healthcare

May 30, 2017

Inc. logo

This Brilliant Harvard Professor Will Change the Way You Think About Products

April 6, 2017

Forbes logo

Clay Christensen's Surprising Take On Ikea, Google And Milkshakes

March 3, 2017

Knowledge @ Wharton logo

Why Marketers Often Miss the Mark in Product Innovations

November 3, 2016

American Enterprise Institute logo

Innovation, Economic Growth, and Corporate ‘Short-Termism’: A Q&A with Business Guru Clayton Christensen

October 14, 2016

Linkedin Logo

What Job Did You Hire Your Job To Do?

October 12, 2016

Washington Post logo

What This Harvard Innovation Guru Thinks Can Protect Companies From Disruption

October 5, 2016

Forbes logo

Clayton Christensen On What He Got Wrong About Disruptive Innovation

October 3, 2016

Wall Street Journal logo

Clayton Christensen Has a New Theory

September 30, 2016

Clay Christensen on Competing Against Luck

September 1, 2016

Know the Job Your Product Was Hired for (with Help from Customer Selfies)

June 6, 2016

Inc

The Happy Entrepreneur

January 18, 2016

Harvard Business Review logo

What Is Disruptive Innovation?

December 2015

The Father of 'Disruption' Theory Explains Why Netflix is The Perfect Example — And Uber Isn't

November 18, 2015

The Power of Market Creation

January/February 2015

Harvard Business Review logo

The Capitalist’s Dilemma

June 2014

Speech Topics

The Prosperity Paradox: Fighting Poverty Through Innovation

For decades, nonprofits and governments have sought to tackle the issue of global poverty by pushing resources – money, schools, hospitals, infrastructure – into poor countries and communities, and have relatively little to show for their efforts. Despite some gradual improvements, the global income gap persists, and many countries have even become poorer. The reason, argues Professor Clayton Christensen, is that a strategy of “push” fails to provide solutions to the jobs that the world’s poor need done. In contrast, when businesses and entrepreneurs introduce products or services to people who have never consumed them before, there are widespread economic gains followed by profound social transformation. Indeed, rich countries like America, Japan and South Korea (where Professor Christensen worked as a missionary many decades ago) were once poor but were revolutionized by specific market-creating innovations that turned the poor from nonconsumers into consumers, and catapulted them to prosperity. In this presentation based on his book “The Prosperity Paradox,” co-written with Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon, Professor Christensen draws both on his extensive research and on his direct personal experience working in a poor country that is now rich. First, he highlights how and why the prevalent approach to global development is ineffective. Then, he prescribes new solutions for tapping into the power of frontier markets and engineering the process of socioeconomic transformation in the world’s most underprivileged countries.

The Innovator’s Dilemma – and Solution

Professor Clayton Christensen has long believed – and proven – that successful, outstanding companies can do everything “right” and yet still lose their competitive edge, or even fail, as new, unexpected competitors rise and take over the market. His seminal theory of disruptive innovation, first introduced more than three decades ago, has changed the way managers and CEOs around the world think about and create innovation. Professor Christensen builds on his groundbreaking research to help all companies understand how to become disruptors themselves. He provides clear advice on the business decisions crucial to truly disruptive growth, drawing from in-depth, real world examples across multiple industries.

Competing Against Luck: Do You Know What Jobs Your Customers are Hiring You to Do?

Year after year, we collectively spend hundreds of billions of dollars developing new products and services in the hope that they will succeed. And, year after year, we find that most of these efforts fail. For many managers, successful innovation is essentially a matter of luck.  But it doesn’t need to be that way, says Clay Christensen.  The key is understanding why our customers make the choices they make. As Christensen and his co-authors explore in their new book, “Competing Against Luck”, customers don’t buy products and services. They hire them to do a job. And knowing the job brings order and predictability to the swirl of innovation.  He delves deep into several well-known companies that have done this right, explaining why no competitor has come close to copying IKEA in more than 40 years; how sleepy Southern New Hampshire University became one of the biggest success stories in continuing education of the last decade, and why Intuit’s Quick Books dominated the market just months after launching.  Don’t leave innovation to chance, urges Christensen. As he discusses, Jobs to be Done isn’t innovation jargon; it’s based on his rigorously researched theory that explains what causes customers to do what they do. This causal mechanism is that every day, jobs arise in their lives that they need to resolve. He describes how managers can learn what these jobs are, and how they might develop a product that nails them well.  Once you understand this, he shows, developing exciting new innovations becomes quite predictable.

A Groundbreaking Prescription for Health Care Reform

It’s no secret our health care system is in critical condition. Each year, fewer Americans can afford it, fewer businesses can provide it, and fewer government programs can promise it for future generations. We need a cure – stat. The challenges the system faces – making health care affordable and conveniently accessible to most people – is not unique to this industry. “Almost every industry began with services and products that were so complicated and expensive to provide that only people with a lot of skill and a lot of money could participate,” Professor Christensen explains. “The transformational force that has brought affordability and accessibility to other industries is disruptive innovation.” He applies the principles of his renowned theory to health care, examines the challenges, and proposes a set of clear, actionable solutions that use the advances of technology to both reduce the cost of care and lead to improved health outcomes for millions.

Disrupting Class: Changing the Way the World Learns Through Innovation

The way we learn doesn’t match up with the way we are taught. If we hope to stay competitive – academically, economically and technologically – we must reevaluate our educational system, rethink our approach to learning, and reinvigorate our commitment to learning. We need disruptive innovation, argues Professor Clayton Christensen. Everyone across the education sector (K-12 through higher education) benefits from understanding why and how to apply the theory’s principles. From online learning to blended learning and hybrid models, Professor Christensen dissects the unprecedented opportunities of a more personalized approach to learning. He discusses not only how the transformation to a student-centric education system could play out, but what educators, policymakers and others must do to ensure it realizes its promise.

Media

Array

Social Media

Biography

“Instead of telling him what to think, I told him how to think.” It’s a simple quote that embodies the mission – and mantra – of Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen: encourage inquiry. It’s also at the root of his disruptive innovation theory, which has defined 21stcentury business and continues to profoundly impact organizations and their leaders across the globe.

Professor Christensen’s enduring legacy will be an idea he first put forward in his book, “The Innovator’s Solution” (2003): don’t sell products and services to customers; address their jobs to be done. This seemingly simple idea holds powerful potential for reframing industries. The Jobs to be Done theory is the focus of his recently published book, “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperCollins, October 2016). By understanding what causes customers to “hire” a product or service, businesses can improve innovation track records and uncover new growth opportunities. The Jobs to be Done framework has been applied by companies across multiple industries, helping to drive innovation, transformation and survival in an era of disruption.

More recently, Professor Christensen has turned his attention to an even broader and deeply rooted issue: solving the dilemma of global poverty and the persistent gap between rich and poor countries. His powerfully written, critically acclaimed book with Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon, “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty” (HarperBusiness, January 2019), constitutes a revolution in the way businesses, governments, and nonprofits think about economic development. Starting with the premise that the world’s poor are also looking for solutions to jobs to be done, Professor Christensen and his co-authors provide in-depth case studies of how entrepreneurs and innovative companies have introduced new products and services for people who never consumed them before or thought they even needed them. In the process, these market-creating innovations have uplifted millions of people from poverty and transformed entire societies. “The Prosperity Paradox,” which was awarded an Axiom Business Book Awards “Gold Medal” in the category of Business Ethics for 2019, offers an alternative to the conventional development model of “pushing” resources into deprived communities, instead emphasizing the dynamic role of innovation and its potential to “pull” in prosperity organically.

A world-renowned innovation strategy and growth expert, Professor Christensen is repeatedly recognized as one of the most influential living management thinkers in the world (Thinkers50). He upended conventional management thinking with his seminal book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (Harvard Business School Press, 1997), which explored the radical paradox that great companies fail by making the “right” decisions in the “wrong” situations. The New York Times best-seller has been translated into 18 languages, sold in more than 25 countries and has deeply influenced some of the greatest business leaders of our time – among them Apple’s Steve Jobs, business magnate Michael Bloomberg and Intel CEO Andy Grove.

In addition to his work on innovation in business and global economics, Professor Christensen also continues to focus the lens of disruptive innovation on the high-income world’s most pressing social problems: health care and education. In 2014, his HBR article, “The Capitalist’s Dilemma,” urged U.S. political leaders to evaluate outdated policies and embrace counterintuitive measures that can help improve our global economies. His best-selling books – “The Innovator’s Prescription” (2008), “Disrupting Class” (2008) and “The Innovative University” (2011) – alongside the rich research and practical work of nonprofit, non-partisan think tank The Clayton Christensen Institute, offer unique frameworks for better understanding and addressing these ever-evolving challenges.

A widely sought speaker, advisor and board member, Professor Christensen’s research continues to be applied to national economies, start-up and Fortune 50 companies, as well as to early- and late-stage investing. He is also an experienced entrepreneur, having started three successful companies: CPS Technologies, innovation consulting firm Innosight, and investment firm Rose Park Advisors. He currently serves as a board member at Tata Consulting Services (NSE: TCS), Franklin Covey (NYSE: FC) and Ensign Group, Inc.

And yet, for all Professor Christensen has accomplished in his professional life, he urges people not to reserve “your best business thinking for your career.” Too often, he says, “we measure success in life against the progress we make in our careers.” This personal and provocative advice is detailed in his McKinsey Award-winning article turned New York Times best-selling book, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” (2012), in which he encourages all of us to think about what is truly important.

Clayton Christensen is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Books & Research

Array

Recommendations

Advance Praise for “The Prosperity Paradox”

“Christensen, Ojomo and Dillon provide an original view on how to combat global poverty in their insightful book, The Prosperity Paradox. It’s an inspiring read on why innovation is one of the most powerful tools we have to help the millions around the world living in poverty.”

—Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, OECD

The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon is a must-read primer on profitable and sustainable approaches to tackling the world’s most challenging problems. By examining the critical role of innovation in creating prosperity, the authors offer us a compelling perspective on how to make real progress in ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.”

—Arunma Oteh, World Bank Treasurer (30th September 2015 to 30th November 2018)

“Christensen, Ojomo and Dillon have captured perfectly the essence of what helped us succeed in building an insurance market in developing economies. Every entrepreneur seeking to understand how to find enormous opportunity in what might seem unlikely conditions must read The Prosperity Paradox.”

—Richard Leftley, chief executive officer of MicroEnsure

The Prosperity Paradox will fundamentally change the conversation about the role of philanthropy in development. As Christensen, Ojomo, and Dillon capture perfectly, to tackle truly important problems, we need to reset our current thinking. Market-creating innovation needs to play a critical role in enabling a path out of poverty through market-driven solutions. Most foundations do not exercise the power they have to provide catalytic capital to engage in high-risk ventures that may unlock sustainable replicable and scalable game-changing solutions.”

—Irene Pritzker, President & Chief Executive Officer, IDP Foundation, Inc

“Clayton Christensen’s latest book The Prosperity Paradox is a must-read. Powerful, persuasive, and wonderfully written, Christensen and his coauthors make a compelling case for the game-changing role of innovation in some of the world’s most desperate economies.”

—Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google and Alphabet

The Prosperity Paradox has the power to transform our thinking about philanthropy and social good. As we continue to grapple with how to lift people out of poverty, Clay Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon provide a new and innovative solution for millions of people around the world. It’s a must-read for anyone with an interest in global affairs who wants to create a truly thriving society.”

—Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global

The Prosperity Paradox perfectly illustrates the need for investment and support for local innovators. Christensen, Ojomo and Dillon show how real entrepreneurs have created booming businesses in low- and middle-income countries, while generating economic growth. This book is necessary for any entrepreneur who wants to create positive and lasting change, and for any government official or investor who wants a better way to spur global development.”

—Matias Recchia, co-founder and CEO of IguanaFix

“The Prosperity Paradox is a manifesto and a call to action for those who recognize that our survival depends on creating opportunity. This book will help innovators be more compassionate. And the compassionate be more innovative.”

—Tom Fletcher, CMG, former UK Ambassador and author of The Naked Diplomat

“Prosperity Paradox is the most important business/management book since Peter Drucker. It will dramatically change all initiatives on development and well beyond–starting with venture capital and entrepreneurship. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about sustainable economic development.”

—Eduardo Braun, Leader of the Advisory Board, Buenos Aires Innovation Park and author of People First Leadership

“Clayton Christensen’s books on innovation are mandatory reading at Netflix.”

—Reed Hastings, Co-founder and CEO of Netflix

 

Competing Against Luck is a genuine game-changer. Based on Clay Christensen’s theory of Jobs to Be Done, Competing Against Luck is filled with compelling real-world examples, including from inside Intuit, which will challenge even the most experienced innovator to truly understand why customers make the choices they make. The theory of Jobs to Be Done has had – and will continue to have – a profound influence on Intuit’s approach to innovation.  It just might change yours, too.”

—Scott Cook, Co-founder & Chairman of Intuit

“Clayton was everything we expected: provocative, persuasive, timely, easy to listen to and understand, provided a great deal of business understanding to our audience, and was an ideal standard setter for our three-day event. Everyone felt that they learned something new which was important to their work and our Innovation in Learning Summit. He also tailored the presentation to our petroleum industry audience. We recommend him very highly to others who may need his presence at their special event.”

—David Donohue, President, IHRDC

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