Summarized by Eric Bunker
Boy Scout's theory on why giants fall has CEOs talking
USA Today 1Jun99 L5
By Kevin Maney
In the business world today, it is quite common for well established and
formerly successful business to be seriously blind-sided by upstart
companies, who at first unnoticed, erode profit margins and steal away
customer base. For example, why minicomputer makers couldn't shift to PCs,
why Sears almost got toppled by Wal-Mart and why Microsoft should be
terrified by Java. The common consensus was that the older companies were
bloated with bureaucratic inefficiencies and poor management decisions.
However, Clayton Christensen, in his 1997 book, "The Innovator's Dilemma,"
The book is becoming so popular in business management circles that it is
getting passed among CEOs like a Victoria's Secret catalog in a boys' locker
room. This summer, whole conferences will revolve around the author and his
book. Business educator, motivator, and speaker, George Gilder calls Bro.
Christensen "the most important business thinker in the world today."
Why all the fuss over one book and its author?
It is just that the author in"Innovator's Dilemma" has finally explained
the dynamics of why these business blind-sides occur. Many academics and
business writers assume business stumbles are always due to bad management.
However, Bro. Christensen assumed managers are usually very smart, and has
piled up hard evidence showing why the smartest ones can so badly miss major
shifts. After all, it is not about stupid, slothful managers. Instead, the
book shows why well run, hard-working established companies still get
whacked by what he calls "disruptive technologies."
In his book Bro. Christensen describes the business physics of something
many CEOís suspected was there to start with. The result is both a salve
and a crystal ball.
"For managers who are struggling, it helps them understand why they're
making the decisions they make," Christensen says. On the crystal ball
side, understanding disruptive technologies can help managers see the
missiles coming in.
Clayton Christensen is a kind, gracious, and modest man, but is turning into
a major-league wonk, one of the biggest stars in business technology. His
professional research seems to flow from the kind of person he is. Bro.
Christensen is self-effacing and assumes the best in everyone; so, he
approached his research from the unusual position of graciousness.
Bro. Christensen is a 6-foot-8 devout Church member who grew up in Salt Lake
City and went to Brigham Young University, where he played basketball. He
has five kids ages 6 to 20. Now 47, he has served as a Boy Scout leader
since 1975. He once ran his own company, Ceramics Process Systems, served
as an assistant to two Transportation secretaries (Drew Lewis and Elizabeth
Dole) and is now a Harvard Business School professor.
His current book is very good at diagnostics, but has no solutions. CEO's
and Managers are desperately hunting for solutions to save their companies.
So to meet this need, Bro. Christensen is starting a new research project to
find workable solutions.