Clay Christensen A Conversation with Clay Christensen

Clay Christensen is the winner of the 2013 CK Prahalad Distinguished Scholar-Practitioner Award.

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What would you highlight as CK's legacy in the field of strategy? Are there aspects of CK's work that you think are not sufficiently recognized in their significance by the field?

The two ideas that are most powerful are that of core competence of the corporation and the creating prosperity at the bottom of the pyramid. Many consultants and academics disagree with CK about the specifics underneath both of these frameworks, but he brought order and a language that truly brought positive consequences to the field.

If you think of CK Prahalad, the person, what aspects of his personality did you find particularly noteworthy and/or important to understand his work?

Unfortunately, I never knew CK Prahalad personally. We spoke at an untold number of conferences, but never on the same days. I didn’t know him or his personality, which I regret.

CK liked to talk about "next practices". What "next practices" do you see as emerging in the near future? How do they link to your work?

The concept of “next practices” is a very valuable extension of the core competence of the corporation. It is very important addition because it’s not the best practice that’s important; it’s the next practice that is important. Understanding the job to be done, instead of understanding the customer is a next practice that is already proving to be successful.

How did his work influence your focus? In the context of his work, what do you think are your main contributions? What are the most relevant ones?

The concept of core competencies was key in my thinking about disruption. It gave me a framework to realize what the core competencies that have led to success won’t in the future.

What are your recommendations for emerging scholars in the field of strategy? Any particular position on the type of research, the selection of topics, or the process of research?

None of us would imagine that we could recommend to a company, “Just copy your competitors.” We would urge them to differentiate their product. But the next generation of scholars have convinced themselves they can create a career by following the crowd and doing research that is orthodox research. The lowest risk strategy is truly to do different types of research, in particular to crawl inside the company discovering and developing theory regarding what causes things to happen. It seems the best way to honor the work of CK Prahalad is to let go of the mathematician perspective, and do more of the crawling into the companies.

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