Clayton M. Christensen (1952-2020) was the co-founder of Innosight and the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth. He held a B.A. with highest honors in economics from Brigham Young University (1975), and an M.Phil. in applied econometrics from Oxford University (1977), where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He received an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School in 1979, graduating as a George F. Baker Scholar. In 1982 Professor Christensen was named a White House Fellow, and served through 1983 as assistant to U.S. Transportation Secretaries Drew Lewis and Elizabeth Dole. He was awarded his DBA from the Harvard Business School in 1992. Professor Christensen became a faculty member there in 1992, and was awarded a full professorship with tenure in 1998. He held five honorary doctorates and an honorary chaired professorship at the Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
Christensen served as a director of many companies, and advised the executives of scores of the world’s major corporations. Christensen was also an experienced entrepreneur, having started four successful companies. Prior to joining the HBS faculty, in 1984 he and three MIT professors founded CPS Technologies, which has become a leading developer and manufacturer of products from high-technology materials.
A leading voice in innovation, Clayton Christensen was perhaps most well-known for coining and defining the notion of disruptive innovation — a business theory centered around the concept of displacing established firms, practices, and products through true, unprecedented upheaval of ideas, process, or entire markets.
In 2000, Christensen founded Innosight, a consulting firm that uses his theories of innovation to help companies create new growth businesses. In 2007, he founded Rose Park Advisors, a firm that identifies and invests in disruptive companies. He was also the founder of the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a non-profit think tank whose mission is to apply his theories to vexing societal problems such as healthcare and education.
Professor Clayton Christensen was the best-selling author of ten books and more than a hundred articles, including his latest books “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty” (HarperBusiness, January 2019) and “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperCollins, October 2016), co-authored with Innosight Senior Partner David Duncan. “The Innovator’s Dilemma” received the Global Business Book Award as the best business book of the year (1997); and in 2011 The Economist named it as one of the six most important books about business ever written. Christensen’s other articles and books have received the Abernathy, Newcomen, James Madison, and Circle Prizes. He has received the McKinsey Award — an award given to the two best articles published in the Harvard Business Review each year — five times. Christensen received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tribeca Films Festival (2010) and the Edison Achievement Award (2015). He has been featured twice (1998 and 2011) as the cover story in Forbes Magazine. In 2011 and 2013, Christensen was named as the most influential business thinker in the world by Thinkers50.
Professor Christensen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Republic of Korea from 1971 to 1973, spoke fluent Korean, and served in his church in as many ways as he could. He served the Boy Scouts of America for 25 years as a scoutmaster, cubmaster, den leader, troop and pack committee chairman. He is survived by his wife, Christine, five children, and seven grandchildren.