Clayton Christensen (Peter Foley/Bloomberg)
Clay Christensen is a gentle man, of devout Mormon faith, prone to sentimentality and beloved by many – not least for his lessons to students on how to find fulfilment, which he turned into an unexpected bestseller, How Will You Measure Your Life?
But the avuncular Harvard Business School star is hot under the collar about this week’s New Yorker attack on the book (The Innovator’s Dilemma) and theory (disruptive innovation) for which he is best known.
What seems to have made him particularly angry is the fact that the author, Jill Lepore, who is also a Harvard academic, did not drop by to chat to him about her detailed allegations that his theory does not stand up. Read more
Clayton Christensen: straight talking on complex ideas about innovation Photo: Bloomberg
And still they come. The stream of articles, books and research purporting to tell people how to innovate is unending. But is there anything new in innovation?
A lot of what is sold as new thinking is actually “people applying their own language to something that isn’t really different from what has been applied before”. That is the view of Scott Anthony, a Singapore-based partner at Innosight, the consultancy co-founded by Clayton Christensen – an acknowledged master of using straightforward language to help business people understand complex ideas on innovation. Read more
Come dine with me: Quid's Gourley takes on SAP's Graf (right)
“I refuse to accept that small companies innovate and disrupt and large companies don’t, because that’s fundamentally wrong.”
That was the response of Peter Graf, Silicon Valley-based chief sustainability officer of SAP, to some sustained needling from Sean Gourley, co-founder of Quid, at a debate I chaired last week at the FT’s Innovate America conference on the Stanford campus. (The full video is here – things really start to kick off about eight minutes from the end). Read more
Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s manager, says he wants to know “how the fans smell”: he walks the arena during the star’s show to get a sense of how they’re receiving the act. Phil Clarke, chief executive of Tesco, has set in motion a retraining scheme for the UK retailer’s managers called “Making Moments Matter”, preparing them for face-to-face contact with customers.
Yet both men work for organisations (if Gaga can be described that way) that have also pioneered the use of technology – the Little Monsters Gaga fan site, the Tesco loyalty ClubCard – that helps them know their customers and run their businesses more efficiently.
The mixed approach they advocate illustrates a theme that emerged strongly from this week’s FT Innovate conference, where both men spoke: how to put the personal touch back in technology? Or, as Aimie Chapple of Accenture summarised at one roundtable session: how do you add the love to Big Data? Read more
The latest study from the American Finance Association’s Journal of Finance reaches a counterintuitive conclusion: perhaps over-confident CEOs are better innovators. Here’s what it says:
CEO overconfidence is associated with riskier projects, greater investment in innovation, and greater total quantity of innovation as measured by patent applications and patent citations even after controlling for the amount of R&D expenditure. In other words, the R&D investments of overconfident CEOs are more productive in generating innovation [my emphasis].
David Hirshleifer, Angie Low and Siew Hong Teoh rightly point out that this may go against the grain for most business commentators (myself included), who “often point to examples of headstrong, overconfident CEOs who made disastrous decisions”. Read more
Even Europhile economists must have pricked up their ears at the offer of £250,000 to the person who comes up with the best plan for winding up the euro. Only the Nobel offers a more valuable bounty to the dismal scientists.
But whatever you think of the goal, is the Wolfson Economics Prize – offered by Lord Wolfson, the youthful, Eurosceptic, Conservative chief executive of Next, the UK retailer – the best way to achieve it? These days, bright business ideas often emerge through collaboration, rather than competition. Read more