Clayton M. Christensen

Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration

Clayton M. Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School; and is regarded as one of the world's top experts on innovation and growth.

Professor Christensen holds 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 holds five honorary doctorates and an honorary chaired professorship at the Tsinghua University in Taiwan.

Christensen has served as a director of many companies, and has advised the executives of scores of the world's major corporations. These companies generate tens of billions of dollars in revenues every year from product and service innovations that were inspired by his research.

Christensen, an experienced entrepreneur, has 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.

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 is also the founder of Innosight Institute, a non-profit think tank whose mission is to apply his theories to vexing societal problems such as healthcare and education.

Professor Christensen is the best-selling author of eight books and more than a hundred articles. 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.  His other articles and books have received the Abernathy, Newcomen, James Madison, and Circle Prizes. Five times he has received the McKinsey Award, given to the two best articles published in the Harvard Business Review each year; and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tribeca Films Festival (2010). He has been featured twice (1998 and 2011) as the cover story in Forbes Magazine. In 2011 in a poll of thousands of executives, consultants and business school professors, Christensen was named as the most influential business thinker in the world.

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; speaks fluent Korean; and continues to serve in his church in as many ways as he can. He served the Boy Scouts of America for 25 years as a scoutmaster, cubmaster, den leader, troop and pack committee chairman. He and his wife Christine live in Belmont, MA. They are the parents of five children and grandparents to five grandchildren.

Comments on my health

February 22, 2010

The doctors have been pleasantly surprised that I have responded to therapy better than they would have imagined. I have been greatly blessed through the miracle of medical science. I also attribute doing better to the faith and prayers of family and friends. Clay Christensen

January 28, 2010

I want to share some personal information with you regarding my health. I was diagnosed in early December with a type of cancer called follicular lymphoma. As my doctors have refined their diagnosis, our sense for what my prospects might be has evolved. As a consequence, those who learned of this early were given a discouraging prognosis, whereas those who were informed later received a much more optimistic vision. As a result, I thought it might be helpful to all of you if I summarized here how I’m doing and what the future seems to hold. I will update this as news emerges from my treatment.

Follicular lymphoma is a slow-growing, small-cell cancer that historically has been much harder to treat than fast-growing, large-cell cancers, because chemotherapy is most effective on fast-growing cells. On the spectrum between large and small, my particular sub-type is about in the middle. A monoclonal antibody drug from Genentech called Rituxan has greatly improved the prognosis for people with my type of cancer — the five-year survival rate is over 95%. For most patients, follicular lymphoma cannot be cured. Although it goes into remission, it flares up again and again — essentially a chronic disease. In my case, however, given the somewhat larger size and growth energy of my cancer cells, the doctors are holding out a significant hope that my cancer can actually be cured. So we feel very optimistic that I’ll be able to live productively for many more years thanks to scientific advances and because we feel so greatly blessed by our Father in Heaven and lifted by the faith of so many wonderful friends.

I’m in the midst of chemotherapy, which is administered in six three-week cycles and should be complete in April. In the week following treatment I need to slow down (and I have lost my hair), but otherwise I am able to continue a relatively normal work schedule — which my doctors have encouraged me to do. So I’m continuing with all of my responsibilities at HBS as well as helping companies use my research to manage more successfully.

This has been a sobering experience, but my wonderful wife, Christine, our five children, and I feel very blessed overall. We are confidently optimistic that all will be well, and are deeply grateful for your support, prayers, and faith. Clayton Christensen