Adrian Zicari, Professor of Accounting at ESSEC Business School and Executive Director of the Council on Business & Society, reflects on the passing of Prof. Clayton Christensen of HBS and a word of wisdom he leaves us from his teaching.
Professor Clayton Christensen was one of the last gurus in Management, and his contribution to theory and practice is immense. His most famous idea remains that of Disruption, the coming up of an unexpected challenger firm that eventually wins over a long standing incumbent. Among his many contributions, I would like to single out an article he published in Harvard Business Review in 2010. (He also did a TED version). It title is curious: “How will you measure your life?” Being myself a professor in accounting, the idea of measuring is natural. After all, we accountants have been trained to measure sales, cash flows, investments, and the like. We can measure (almost) anything. But measuring one’s one life seems a challenging task!
A grand plan
Professor Clayton Christensen, as the wise man he was, was able to connect complex theories with concrete realities. He invited his students (and let us scholars and readers of CoBS be his “students” for this sake) to apply management theories to our own lives. Not just to our careers, but plainly to our life. How would each one of us plan one’s life? What is our strategy? What matters in the long run?
Looking over the horizon
Curiously, as Christensen emphasized, we human beings are attracted to short-term, tangible achievements. We need to deliver – right now. Real time indicators track our ongoing performance, compared to our peers and to the competition. Making deals, scoring goals, and adding more money to our bank account. In the meantime, we may forget, underestimate, and overlook what really matters in our lives. Perhaps our family, our close friends and the values we deeply care about. We may achieve financial success, but this will not make us happy. Despite our efforts, our lives may end up being “disrupted” by not having focused on the appropriate long-term goals that matter.
In his lasting lesson, Professor Clayton Christensen reminds us of the importance to have a purpose in our lives, daring to invest our time and efforts in what we truly cherish, and this despite the everyday short-term pressures that we face. An unforgettable lesson from an unforgettable professor.
- Read Clayton Christensen’s article “How will you measure your life?”
- Learn more about Prof. Clayton Christensen’s life and career
- Discover Prof. Adrian Zicari’s research and feature articles on CoBS Insights.
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