Clayton Christensen’s last(ing) lesson

CSR, leadership, social enterprise, management, philanthropy, diversity, gender equity, healthcare, sustainability, ethics, industrial relations, healthcare, employee wellbeing, Council on Business & Society, Global Voice magazine, ESSEC Business School, ESSEC Asia-Pacific, FGV-EAESP, Trinity College Dublin Business School, IE Business School, Keio Business School, Warwick Business School, School of Management Fudan University, Tom Gamble, Global Voice magazine, responsible innovation, Clayton Christensen, measure your life

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

The late Prof. Clayton Christensen (source alumni.hbs.edu)

Professor 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 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.

CSR, leadership, social enterprise, management, philanthropy, diversity, gender equity, healthcare, sustainability, ethics, industrial relations, healthcare, employee wellbeing, Council on Business & Society, Global Voice magazine, ESSEC Business School, ESSEC Asia-Pacific, FGV-EAESP, Trinity College Dublin Business School, Keio Business School, Warwick Business School, School of Management Fudan University, Tom Gamble, Global Voice 11 special issue Responsible Leadership & Sustainable Business Practices
Adrian Zicari

Useful links:

Learn more about the Council on Business & Society

The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

In 2020, member schools now number 7, all “Triple Crown” accredited AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA and leaders in their respective countries.

The Council on Business & Society (The CoBS), visionary in its conception and purpose, was created in 2011, and is dedicated to promoting responsible leadership and tackling issues at the crossroads of business and society including sustainability, diversity, ethical leadership and the place responsible business has to play in contributing to the common good.  

The Council on Business & Society Global Alliance is an international alliance between seven of the world’s leading business schools and an organiser of Forums focusing on issues at the crossroads of business and society – The Council Community helps bring together business leaders, academics, policy-makers, students and journalists from around the world. Follow us on Twitter @The_CoBS . Visit the Council’s website for a host of information, learning opportunities, and free downloads.  

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.