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22 Inspirational Quotes on Innovation and Disruption by Clayton M. Christensen

Clayton M. Christensen (April 6, 1952 – January 23, 2020) was an American academic and consultant, renowned for introducing the theory of disruptive innovation, which has influenced business management and strategies for achieving long-term success in competitive markets. Holding a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Brigham Young University, a Master of Philosophy from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and a Doctor of Business Administration from Harvard Business School, Christensen joined the Harvard faculty in 1992. At the time of his death, he was celebrated for his roles as an educator, consultant, and speaker, shaping modern understanding of innovation and business growth (Wikipedia Contributors, 2019).

Clayton M. Christensen's legacy is marked by his profound influence on the understanding of innovation and strategic thinking in business. His concepts of disruptive innovation and the jobs-to-be-done framework have become fundamental to modern business strategy. Christensen's work continues to inspire entrepreneurs, executives, and students worldwide, encouraging a deeper, more analytical approach to understanding competition and serving customers.

Key contributions

Christensen's most significant contribution to the field of management is his theory of disruptive innovation, introduced in his 1997 book, "The Innovator's Dilemma." This theory explains how smaller companies with fewer resources can successfully challenge established businesses by targeting overlooked segments, offering more suitable functionality, and gradually moving upmarket to challenge the industry leaders. His theory has been widely applied across various industries, from technology to healthcare, and has influenced how companies approach innovation and growth strategy.

Other Works

Beyond "The Innovator's Dilemma," Christensen wrote several other books and numerous articles expanding on the concepts of innovation and strategic management. Some of his notable works include:

  • "The Innovator's Solution"

  • "The Innovator's DNA"

  • "Disrupting Class"

  • "How Will You Measure Your Life?"



  • “Three classes of factors affect what an organization can and cannot do: its resources, its processes, and its values.”

  • “If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification.”


  • “It's easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.” 

  • “You may hate gravity, but gravity doesn’t care.”

  • “Resources are what he uses to do it, processes are how he does it, and priorities are why he does it.” 

  • “In your life, there are going to be constant demands for your time and attention. How are you going to decide which of those demands gets resources? The trap many people fall into is to allocate their time to whoever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward. That’s a dangerous way to build a strategy.” 

  • “Core competence, as it is used by managers, is a dangerously inward-looking notion. Competitiveness is far more about doing what customers value than doing what you think you’re good at.”


  • “But actually theory is very practical. Gravity is a theory, for example. It allows you to predict that if you step off a cliff you will fall; you don’t have to collect data on that.”

  • “Good theory helps us understand ‘how’ and ‘why.’ It helps us make sense of how the world works and predict the consequences of our decisions and our actions.”


  • “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

  • “Motivation is the catalyzing ingredient for every successful innovation. The same is true for learning.”

  • “There is no single right answer or path forward, but there is one right way to frame the problem.”

  • “You can’t find returns in investments you haven’t made.”

  • “We adhere to saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ while not really questioning whether ‘it’ is ‘broke.’”

  • “How can you make sense of the future when you only have data about the past?”

  • “New products succeed not because of the features and functionality they offer but because of the experiences they enable.”

Disruptive Technologies

  • “But in disruptive situations, action must be taken before careful plans are made. Because much less can be known about what markets need or how large they can become, plans must serve a very different purpose: They must be plans for learning rather than plans for implementation.”

  • “Efficiency innovations provide return on investment in 12-18 months. Empowering innovations take 5-10 years to yield a return.”

  • “Disruptive innovations create jobs, efficiency innovations destroy them.”

  • “Disruptive technology should be framed as a marketing challenge, not a technological one.”

  • “First, disruptive products are simpler and cheaper; they generally promise lower margins, not greater profits. Second, disruptive technologies typically are first commercialized in emerging or insignificant markets. And third, leading firms’ most profitable customers generally don’t want, and indeed initially can’t use, products based on disruptive technologies.”

  • “The reason why it is so difficult for existing firms to capitalize on distruptive innovations is that their processes and their business model that make them good at the existing business actually make them bad at competing for disruption.”


Wikipedia Contributors. (2019, April 30). Clayton M. Christensen. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation.

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