Jill Lepore (a Harvard historian and writer at the New Yorker) takes
down Clayton Christensen's research as well as his theory of
disruptive innovation in
THE DISRUPTION MACHINE
What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.
In the P.S. are some excerpts.
The theory of disruption is meant to be predictive. On March 10, 2000,
Christensen launched a $3.8-million Disruptive Growth Fund, which he
managed with Neil Eisner, a broker in St. Louis. Christensen drew on
his theory to select stocks. Less than a year later, the fund was
quietly liquidated: during a stretch of time when the Nasdaq lost
fifty per cent of its value, the Disruptive Growth Fund lost
sixty-four per cent. In 2007, Christensen told Business Week that “the
prediction of the theory would be that Apple won’t succeed with the
iPhone,” adding, “History speaks pretty loudly on that.”
Christensen has compared the theory of disruptive innovation to a
theory of nature: the theory of evolution. But among the many
differences between disruption and evolution is that the advocates of
disruption have an affinity for circular arguments. If an established
company doesn’t disrupt, it will fail, and if it fails it must be
because it didn’t disrupt. When a startup fails, that’s a success,
since epidemic failure is a hallmark of disruptive innovation. (“Stop
being afraid of failure and start embracing it,” the organizers of
FailCon, an annual conference, implore, suggesting that, in the era of
disruption, innovators face unprecedented challenges. For instance:
maybe you made the wrong hires?) When an established company succeeds,
that’s only because it hasn’t yet failed. And, when any of these
things happen, all of them are only further evidence of disruption.
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