“Our careers provide the most very tangible, immediate achievement,” says business thinker Clayton Christensen. “In contrast, investments in our families don’t pay off for a very long time.”
Back in May, the New Yorker published an expansive, intriguing, 11-page profile of Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor. (MIT Sloan Management Review has published some of Christensen’s research over the years, including the 2007 “Finding the Right Job For Your Product.”)
The New Yorker article talks about Christensen’s long-time focus on why success is so difficult to sustain.
The article details his fascination with low-end disruptive products (articulated in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma), the emergence of online learning through video lecture, his Mormon faith, and how good people, like good companies, can lose their way in life.
That last topic, about how people falter, is one that Christensen is particularly passionate about these days. The New Yorker article, for instance, includes this passage:
He had seen many people tell themselves that they could divide their lives into stages, spending the first part pushing forward their careers, and imagining that at some future point they would spend time with their families – only to find that by then their families were gone.
Christensen has written a book on this topic, called How Will You Measure Your Life? (HarperBusiness, 2012).
Last month, at the TEDxBoston conference, Christensen spoke about this question, in a talk of the same name. “Our careers provide the most very tangible, immediate achievement,” he said. “In contrast, investments in our families don’t pay off for a very long time.” The full 19:31 minute video is here:
Here are some other articles from the MIT SMR archives:
“Good Days for Disruptors”: In this 2009 interview, Christensen explains why he thinks the economic downturn will have "an unmitigated positive effect on innovation.”
“The Great Leap: Driving Innovation From the Base of the Pyramid”: From 2002: Christensen and co-author Stuart L. Hart explain that with billions of poor people aspiring to join the world’s economy, disruptive innovation should be able to pave the way, helping companies combine sustainable corporate growth with social responsibility.
“The Past and Future of Competitive Advantage”: From 2001: Christensen lays out his overall thesis, that today’s competitive advantage may become tomorrow’s albatross unless strategists attune themselves to changes in underlying conditions.