The late Clayton Christensen is remembered by many as the world’s most profound authority on innovation, best known for his theory of disruptive innovation.
In his work, he explored how innovative approaches lead to organizational transformation and create valuable new sources of growth. Christensen’s analysis of the ongoing failure of economic developments to generate sustainable growth – the prosperity paradox – shows how market-creating innovation holds the key to national prosperity.
The thought-leader died in January this year, leaving behind an unmatched legacy, and a message that will be carried into the future by his many admirers.
One of those people is Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan, who credits Christensen as an inspiration behind the creation of Hubspot, a leading platform for marketing, sales, and customer service.
Halligan remembers visiting the then-Harvard Business School professor for a class in 2006. Up until January 2020, Christensen was the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
During this class, Christensen spoke about how Apple disrupted music when piracy threatened to append the industry. According to Halligan, Christensen meditated on how Apple knew people were downloading music, so in response, they created the iPod and allowed people to download MP3 files for $1 per song.
That class inspired Halligan to combine sales, marketing, and customer service into one platform to disrupt all of those industries.
Halligan isn't alone. Upon the news of Christensen's passing, former editor of the Harvard Business Review, Karen Dillon, shared a similar account: "Clayton Christensen changed my life."
Dillon recounts an interview she had with the innovator and how she had been "extraordinarily" moved by everything he said. “When I sat down in his office that day, I was focused on my deadline,” she shared. “When I left, an hour and a half later, I was focused on my life.”
What made Christensen so inspiring is difficult to pinpoint. For some, it was his wealth of knowledge, for others his perspective. On that day, Dillon boiled it down to his uncanny ability to "put a new pair of lenses on the problems we’re trying to solve."
Traeger Grills CEO Jeremy Andrus has credited Christensen’s disruptive innovation theory with his decision to join Traeger Grills.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Christensen lived an incredible life, one that was filled with twist and turns, but most of all, a life that impacted many people positively. He was once a missionary in the Republic of Korea, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and was named a White House Fellow. He is the founder of the Christensen Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think-tank dedicated to improving the world through disruptive innovation. He is also the founder of strategy consultancy Innosight as well as Rose Park Advisors, an investment firm that pursues disruptive opportunities.
The true legacy Christensen leaves behind is a new guard of thinkers and innovators.