a16z Podcast: Competing Against Luck

In business, mistakes of omission may be just as bad as (if not worse than) mistakes of commission — simply because of the loss in potential upside: new companies, new products, new opportunities for growth. Or even in the ability to respond to the disruption coming to one’s industry and company… if it hasn’t already. Sometimes, and in certain industries (such as hospitality and education), it just takes longer to pull off.

But it’s not like people and companies are dumbly sitting around waiting for disruption to happen. In fact, having read the book on disruption for years — 20 years, to be precise, given the anniversary of The Innovator’s Dilemma this year — many smart business leaders know it could happen, yet fully determine that it’s not going to happen to them… and then, of course, it still happens, observes a16z’s Marc Andreessen. Why? Part of the answer, shares father of disruption theory and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, is they don’t have a common language, logic, architecture, way to frame the problem. And that’s where other theories and frameworks — like jobs-to-be-done and modularity — come in. A theory, after all, though never perfect can help.

So in this episode of the podcast — from our inaugural a16z Summit event — Christensen and Andreessen (in conversation with longtime tech writer and Backchannel editor-in-chief Steven Levy) share their thoughts for how such theories can play out practically in both managing business, and managing priorities in life.