Professor Clayton Christensen | An Appreciation.
We’re very sad to hear that Professor Clayton Christensen has died at the tragically early age of 67. He was a mensch.
He left a dent in the universe and leaves a hole that cannot be replaced. One of the most lovely people and someone that has had a huge influence on many of us in the Business of Software community. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends.
His life measured well on every dimension.
Clay was an entrepreneur turned academic who led a remarkable life, better and more completely covered in this NY Times obituary and this HBR piece. He was a gentle giant, former basketball star, father, scholar and above all else, both from what we know of Clay first hand and from others who knew him far better, a kind man.
His talk at Business of Software Conference 2011, where he opened the event, with his 90 minute talk on the Jobs Your Product Does, is often cited as one of the most important we’ve had the privilege of sharing – with our attendees and viewers around the world. He was recovering from a stroke that had robbed him of his ability to write and speak. He told us he’d been working through Rosetta Stone for English and that he still had trouble finding the right words and encouraged us to help him out.
Needless to say, his speech was flawless. Entertaining, hugely thought-provoking and funny.
Also, he was one of the nicest people we have ever had the privilege of working with.
His Legacy in the Software Industry
The software industry has much to thank Clay Christensen for. His work was brilliant and thought-provoking. As a teacher and mentor, he worked closely with people, most notably in our world, Bob Moesta on the Jobs-to-be-Done framework. They were a great partnership.
Clay did not teach people WHAT to think. He taught them HOW to think.
Putting a Dent in the Universe
For all his brilliance and insight into the world of technology, disruptive innovation, academia and entrepreneurship, the thing he did that had the most impact on me personally, was the book he wrote after he discovered he had cancer and suffered his stroke. It was not about entrepreneurship, though it applied to entrepreneurs, business people and anyone starting out in their career. In fact, it was originally written for Harvard MBA graduates and aimed to help frame three big questions:
- First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
- Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
- Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?
(The third question was not rhetorical, this is the Harvard class that had taught Jeffrey Skilling and others). “How Will You Measure Your Life“, was the result. A book we enjoyed and felt it so good that we purchased 400 copies for attendees the year after he spoke. Clay put a dent in the universe in a positive way. If you are not familiar with his work, you should be. If you want some insight into his thinking and the humanity behind man, “How Will You Measure Your Life“, is a great place to start.
Thank you for everything Clay.
You will be greatly missed by more people than you could have ever imagined.