Disruptive Innovation Explained: Is Your Organization Prepared?

In the twenty years since Christensen first introduced the idea in his ground-breaking book, The Innovator’s Solution, the theory has become very powerful and very useful, gaining tremendous currency among the popular business lexicon.

But disruption theory has widely been interpreted as an all-purpose label for anything that is new, and threatens to challenge industry incumbents. Today, Christensen argues that’s much too broad a usage: Only a subset of transformative or breakthrough innovations are also disruptive innovations and different types of innovation require different strategic approaches.

What lens should your company use when thinking about innovation? What is the difference between market-creating innovation versus a sustaining innovation or efficiency innovation – and how should your organization think about its competitive response to these innovations?

On June 15, 2016, join Clay Christensen and HBR Editor in Chief, Adi Ignatius for a live interactive video webinar that discusses disruptive innovation and its applications in the new competitive landscape. They will talk about what disruptive theory can and can’t do – and identify how understanding what “jobs” your customers need done will help your company look for new opportunities.

Source: Clayton Christensen (@claychristensen) is the Kim B. Clark professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of the forthcoming Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice (HarperBusiness/HarperCollins, October 2016).

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

About the Book

The foremost authority on innovation and growth presents a path-breaking book every company needs to transform innovation from a game of chance to one in which they develop products and services customers not only want to buy, but are willing to pay premium prices for.

How do companies know how to grow? How can they create products that they are sure customers want to buy? Can innovation be more than a game of hit and miss? Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has the answer. A generation ago, Christensen revolutionized business with his groundbreaking theory of disruptive innovation. Now, he goes further, offering powerful new insights.

After years of research, Christensen has come to one critical conclusion: our long held maxim—that understanding the customer is the crux of innovation—is wrong. Customers don’t buy products or services; they “hire” them to do a job. Understanding customers does not drive innovation success, he argues. Understanding customer jobs does. The “Jobs to Be Done” approach can be seen in some of the world’s most respected companies and fast-growing startups, including Amazon, Intuit, Uber, Airbnb, and Chobani yogurt, to name just a few. But this book is not about celebrating these successes—it’s about predicting new ones.

Christensen contends that by understanding what causes customers to “hire” a product or service, any business can improve its innovation track record, creating products that customers not only want to hire, but that they’ll pay premium prices to bring into their lives. Jobs theory offers new hope for growth to companies frustrated by their hit and miss efforts.

This book carefully lays down Christensen’s provocative framework, providing a comprehensive explanation of the theory and why it is predictive, how to use it in the real world—and, most importantly, how not to squander the insights it provides.

Critical Praise

This game-changing book is filled with compelling real world examples, including from inside Intuit. Jobs Theory has had –and will continue to have —a profound influence on Intuit’s approach to innovation. It just might change yours, too. — Scott Cook, Co-founder & Chairman of Intuit

Clayton Christensen’s books on innovation are mandatory reading at Netflix. — Reed Hastings, Co-founder and CEO of Netflix

Competing Against Luck offers fresh thinking on how to get innovation right. Clayton Christensen and his coauthors offer a compelling take on how to truly understand customers by the progress they’re seeking to make in their lives. Bravo! — Muhtar Kent, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company

Clay Christensen and his co-authors have presented critical business thinkers and doers with a breakthrough theory that will change how leaders approach innovation by reverse engineering from a high value and focused customer job to be done. I have read it cover to cover–and will ask my top team to do the same. —Ron Frank, IBM

[Competing Against Luck] will likely become part of the thoughtful founder’s strategy arsenal. True to its unpretentious name, jobs theory is disarmingly simple… “What job is our customer trying to accomplish?” stands as one of those great business questions that companies deploy to stimulate creative juices at the start of meetings. But Competing Against Luck doesn’t just introduce a tool, it also lays out a program. — Inc. Magazine

The Theory of Jobs to Be Done has the essential trait of any good management theory: Once explained, it seems glaringly obvious. — Philip Delves Broughton, Wall Street Journal

In an age of big data and hyper segmentation, Christensen’s thinking is refreshing and clarifying. This book will relieve you of tired marketing conversations and invite you into worlds of new and ultimately, defining possibilities. Competing Against Luck is a must read for anyone working on developing or sustaining a distinctive brand. — Maureen Chiquet, former CEO of Chanel and author of forthcoming Beyond the Label

As a long-time fan of Clay Christensen, I was eager to read Competing Against Luck — and it didn’t disappoint. This book has the potential to change the way you view innovation. Engaging and well-written, Christensen and his co-authors caused me to stop and really think about how Khan Academy is growing. I highly recommend it. — Sal Khan, Founder & CEO, Khan Academy


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