07 May 2020

Harvard Business Review Announces First Recipient of Clayton M. Christensen Prize

The award honors the late Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and pioneer of disruptive innovation theory
Gary Pisano
Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva

BOSTON, MA—Harvard Business Review has announced the establishment of the Clayton M. Christensen Prize, with Harvard Business School professor Gary Pisano named as the first recipient for his article “The Hard Truth about Innovative Cultures.”

The prize pays tribute to Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, who died in January 2020 at age 67, by recognizing influential articles about innovation published in Harvard Business Review.

“Clay was a great friend of Harvard Business Review, contributing so many brilliant articles and books and serving as a generous collaborator,” said Adi Ignatius, Editor in Chief of Harvard Business Review. “He made a profound impact on how we think about innovation and strategy, and we’re proud to honor his legacy with this award.”

Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation” – the process by which start-ups can displace incumbents – influenced a generation of executives, entrepreneurs, and companies. He introduced that theory in “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,” a 1995 article written with his HBS colleague Joseph Bower, and expanded on it in his groundbreaking 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma.

Over the next 23 years Christensen continued to explore aspects of disruptive innovation, from how to improve products through his concept of “jobs to be done” to applying disruption theory to health care, consulting, and capitalism itself. Christensen also extended his thinking about business to the personal realm in the now-classic “How Will You Measure Your Life?

Gary Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development at the Harvard Business School. In his winning article, he explores the paradoxical nature of innovative cultures, in which characteristics such as tolerance for failure, collaboration, and fun must be counterbalanced by competence, individual accountability, and rigorous discipline.

The judges praised “The Hard Truth about Innovative Cultures” as original, counterintuitive, and “practical and useful, while thought-provoking.” One judge commented that the article “helped us understand that fostering a culture of innovation was not only hard work, but it often involved doing uninteresting and unlikeable things” that run counter to how innovative cultures are often depicted.

The Clayton M. Christensen Prize was judged by a panel of experts who have been influenced by Christensen’s work. They are: Scott D. Anthony, Senior Partner, Innosight; Matt Christensen, Co-Founder, CEO, and Managing Partner, Rose Park Advisors; Karen Dillon, Editorial Director of BanyonGlobal and Senior Researcher, Clayton Christensen Institute; Rita Gunther McGrath, Professor, Columbia Business School; and Efosa Ojomo, Global Prosperity Lead, Clayton Christensen Institute.

Pisano’s article was selected from a group of five finalists that also included:

“Breaking Down the Barriers to Innovation,” by Scott D. Anthony, Paul Cobban, Rahul Nair, and Natalie Painchaud

“How Employers Are Fixing Healthcare,” by Lisa Woods, Jonathan R. Slotkin, MD, and M. Ruth Coleman

“When Your Moonshots Don’t Take Off,” by Nathan Furr, Jeffrey H. Dyer, and Kyle Nel

“Why Companies Do ‘Innovation Theater’ Instead of Actual Innovation,” by Steve Blank

This is the second honor from HBR for “The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures,” which recently won the 2019 HBR McKinsey Award.


Amy Poftak
Director of Communications


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