Clayton Christensen

Clayton Magleby Christensen (born April 6, 1952) is an American academic, business consultant, and religious leader who currently serves as the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School of Harvard University. He is best known for his theory of "disruptive innovation", first introduced in his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma, which has been called the most influential business idea of the early 21st century.[1][2]

Clayton Christensen
Christensen at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2013
Born (1952-04-06) April 6, 1952
Alma materBrigham Young University (B.A.)
University of Oxford (M.Phil.)
Harvard University (MBA, DBA)
Known for"Disruption" and "disruptive innovation" concepts, The Innovator's Dilemma

Christensen is also a co-founder of Rose Park Advisors, a venture capital firm, and Innosight, a management consulting and investment firm specializing in innovation.[3]

Early life and education

Clayton Christensen was born on April 6, 1952, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the second of eight children born to Robert M. Christensen (1926–1976) and his wife Verda Mae Christensen (née Fuller; 1922–2004).[4] He grew up in the Rose Park neighborhood of Salt Lake City and attended West High School, where he was student body president.[4] Christensen and his siblings were raised as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Christensen was an avid basketball player who grew to 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) tall, and later became the starting center on the men's basketball team during his time at Oxford.[5]

After graduating from high school in 1970, Christensen matriculated at Brigham Young University (BYU). While at BYU, he took a two-year leave of absence from 1971 to 1973 to serve as a volunteer full-time missionary for the LDS Church. He was assigned to serve in South Korea and became a fluent speaker of Korean. Christensen returned to BYU after completing his missionary service, and in 1975 graduated with an Honors B.A. summa cum laude in economics. Upon graduating, he won a Rhodes Scholarship and spent two years studying applied econometrics at the University of Oxford, receiving an M.Phil. in 1977. Christensen then returned to the United States and moved to Harvard University to pursue an MBA at the Harvard Business School, which he earned with high distinction in 1979.[6]


After receiving his MBA in 1979, Christensen began working for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) as a consultant and project manager.[4] In 1982, he was named a White House Fellow and took a one-year leave of absence from BCG to work in Washington, D.C. as an assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, serving under Drew Lewis and then Elizabeth Dole. In 1984, he and several professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology founded an advanced ceramics company called Ceramics Process Systems Corporation (now known as CPS Technologies). Christensen served as its president and CEO through the late 1980s, then decided to leave the company and become a university professor. He returned to Harvard for doctoral study in business, receiving a Doctor of Business Administration degree in 1992. After completing his doctorate, Christensen joined the Harvard Business School faculty and set a record by achieving the rank of "full" professor in only six years.[4]

In 2000, he founded Innosight LLC, a consulting and training firm. In 2005, together with his colleagues at Innosight, he launched Innosight Ventures, a venture firm focused on investing in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. In 2007, he co-founded Rose Park Advisors LLC (named after the neighborhood in Salt Lake City where he was raised), an investment company which applies his research as an investment strategy.

He serves on the board of directors of Tata Consultancy Services (NSE: TCS), Franklin Covey (NYSE: FC), and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

At HBS, he teaches an elective course he designed called "Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise", which teaches how to build and manage an enduring, successful company or transform an existing organization, and also in many of the school's executive education programs. Christensen was awarded a full professorship with tenure in 1998, and currently holds eight honorary doctorates and an honorary chaired professorship at the National Tsinghua University in Taiwan. [7]

Christensen is the best-selling author of ten books, including his seminal work The Innovator's Dilemma (1997), which received the Global Business Book Award for the best business book of the year. One of the main concepts depicted in this book is also his most disseminated and famous one: disruptive innovation. The concept has been growing in interest over time since 2004, according to Google Trends' data. However, due to constant misinterpretation, Christensen still often writes articles trying to explain the concept even further. Some of his other books are focused on specific industries and discuss social issues such as education and health care. Disrupting Class (2008) looks at the root causes of why schools struggle and offers solutions, while The Innovator's Prescription (2009) examines how to fix the American healthcare system. The latter two books have received numerous awards as the best books on education and health care in their respective years of publication. The Innovator's Prescription was also awarded the 2010 James A. Hamilton Award, by the College of Healthcare Executives.[7]

Personal life

Christensen lives in Belmont, Massachusetts, with his wife, Christine, whom he married in 1976. They have three sons—Matthew, Michael, and Spencer—and two daughters—Ann and Catherine. Matthew Christensen (b. 1977), their eldest son, stands 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) tall and played college basketball at Duke University, where he was a member of Duke's 2001 National Championship team.[8]

As a member of the LDS Church,[9] Christensen served from 1971 to 1973 as a missionary in Korea and speaks fluent Korean.[10] He has served in several leadership positions in the church. He served as an area seventy from 2002 to 2009. He has also served as a counselor in the presidency of the Massachusetts Boston Mission and as a bishop.[11]

In February 2010, Christensen announced that he had been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma.[12] In July 2010, he had an ischemic stroke.[13][14] Despite Christensen's health setbacks, he is once again actively teaching, speaking and writing. In 2011, Christensen published two books: The Innovative University[15] and The Innovator’s DNA (Harvard Business Press). More recently Christensen has focused on applying his ideas to social innovations including healthcare and development in Africa.[16]

Honors and awards


Journal articles

  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Bower, Joseph L. (January–February 1995), "Disruptive technologies: catching the wave", Harvard Business Review. The seminal article.
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Overdorf, Michael (March–April 2000), "Meeting the challenge of disruptive change", Harvard Business Review.
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Bohmer, Richard; Kenagy, John (September–October 2000), "Will disruptive innovations cure health care?", Harvard Business Review, archived from the original on 2011-06-14.
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Cook, Scott; Hall, Taddy (December 2005), "Marketing malpractice: the cause and the cure", Harvard Business Review.
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Marx, Matthew; Stevenson, Howard H. (October 2006), "The tools of cooperation and change", Harvard Business Review.
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Baumann, Heiner; Ruggles, Rudy; Sadtler, Thomas M. (December 2006), "Disruptive innovation for social change", Harvard Business Review.
  • Christensen, Clayton M. (July–August 2010), "How will you measure your life?", Harvard Business Review.
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Dillon, Karen; Hall, Taddy; Duncan, David (September 2016), "Know your customer's Job To Be Done", Harvard Business Review
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Bartman, Tom; van Bever, Derek (September 2016), "The Hard Truth about Business Model Innovation", MIT Sloan Management Review



  1. Bagehot (15 June 2017). "Jeremy Corbyn, Entrepreneur". The Economist. p. 53. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  2. Wolfe, Alexandra (30 September 2016). "Clayton Christensen Has a New Theory". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  3. Wieners, Bradford (3 May 2012). "Clay Christensen's Life Lessons". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  4. de Groote, Michael (27 Nov 2010). "Clayton Christensen: Just a Guy from Rose Park". Deseret News. Retrieved 9 Dec 2015.
  5. "Decisions for Which I've Been Grateful". BYU-Idaho. 2004. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  6. "Clayton Christensen". Disruptor Awards. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  7. "Clayton M. Christensen - Faculty - Harvard Business School". Archived from the original on 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
  8. Toone, Trent (25 January 2012). "Mormons in the ACC: Tar Heel guard plans to serve mission, while former Duke center reflects on career". Deseret News. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  9. "Why I Belong, Why I Believe".
  10. "Biography". Retrieved 2013-02-15.
  11. "New Area Authority Seventies", Church News, April 20, 2002, retrieved 2013-02-15
  12. "Comments on my health".
  13. Whelan, David (14 March 2011). "Clayton Christensen: The Survivor -". Forbes. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  14. "Clayton Christensen - My Health". Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  15. Christensen, Clayton M (2011). The Innovative University. Josey-Bass.
  16. "CNBCAfrica Interview".
  17. "The Thinkers50 Ranking 2013". Thinkers 50. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
  18. "Thinkers50 Profile". Thinkers 50. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  19. "Clayton M. Christensen receives Herbert Simon Award". Official Page of Rajk CfAS's Herbert Simon Award. 10 November 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  20. "Edison Achievement Award". Retrieved 2017-05-05.
  21. "Celebrating Exceptional Alumni". BYU Magazine. Fall 2015. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
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