Obituary: Clayton Christensen, The Disruptive Guru, Dies At 67

Photo: Clay Christensen

Clayton Christensen, long-time Fletcher Road resident and Kim. B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School who wrote the pioneering book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” died last Thursday, Jan. 23 in a Boston hospital.

Christensen, who had been in poor health for more than a decade, died of complications of leukemia, according to Nitin Nohria, dean of the Harvard Business School. He was 67.

“Our family is grateful for the outpouring of love and support we have received over the past few days,” the family said in a statement. “We are humbled by how many lives he has touched. Clayton felt his life would be measured by the individuals he helped and the ways in which he could serve those around him.”

Read Christensen’s obituaries here:

A towering figure in business and life (he stood 6′ 8″), Christensen is known for his 1997 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” which “The Economist” magazine called “one of the six most important business books ever written.”

The book demonstrates how successful companies can do everything “right” and still lose their market leadership – or even fail – as new, unexpected competitors rise and take over the market. The book hit a chord with many young innovators and took off after the CEO of Intel Andy Grove told an industry conference that “The Innovator’s Dilemma” was “the most important book I had read in 10 years.”

Christensen was born in Salt Lake City and graduated from Brigham Young University after serving two years as a missionary in Korea. After marrying his wife, Christine, he attended Harvard Business School graduating with an MBA in 1979. He joined Boston Consulting Group and later founded a company with several MIT professors.

Just after joining the ranks of academia as a professor at his alma mater Harvard Business, the Christensens bought their house in 1994 on Belmont Hill, expanding the structure 10 years later.

He also dabbled in local matters when in 2012, Christensen promoted the use of internet learning for Belmont High School students in an effort to flatten the expense curve of Belmont’s education costs. 

A person of strong faith, Christensen was active in his local LDS ward, serving as a bishop and as a past member of Area Seventy, Sixth Quorum. After he suffered a devastating stroke, Christensen wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review called “How Will You Measure Your Life?” which became a book on how to achieve a fulfilling life.

Christensen is survived by his wife, Christine, and their children, Matthew, Michael, Spencer, Ann and Catherine Christensen; and nine grandchildren.

Visitations will be held:

  • Friday, Jan. 31 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 15 Ledgewood Pl. in Belmont
  • Saturday, Feb from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 65 Binney St., in Kendell Square, Cambridge

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 65 Binney St, Cambridge.

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