Clayton Christensen (1952-2020) pioneered disruption theory, one of the most influential — and misunderstood! — theories that has influenced thinkers and makers in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Whether it was the insight that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy” — which Chris Dixon expands on in this 2010 post and in this 2017 animated video; or that disruption theory, which came about in an earlier era of software, was incomplete in terms of focusing on “end-user quality” (from this 2014 @pmarca tweetstorm); or that “jobs to be done” is another framework to use because no theory is perfect (as shared in this 2016 Summit conversation) — Clay has influenced us in countless ways.

But one of the things we remember most is his sharing a personal story on stage with Marc (and Derek Anderson at Startup Grind) in 2016, about why he didn’t break a commitment, even “just one time”:

It turns out that that decision is one of the most important decisions I ever made, because it turns out my whole life has been filled with an unending stream of extenuating circumstances. And if I had said ‘just this once’, the next time it occurred and the next time it’s easier and easier.

And I decided it is easier to hold to our principles a 100% of our time, than it is 98% of the time.

Rest in peace, Clay. Your legacy in business, and life, lives on.

a16z on Clay Christensen…

…on ‘jobs to be done’ and more:

a16z Podcast: Competing Against Luck

…on how it’s competence that causes companies to be disrupted:

a16z Podcast: Disruption in Business… and Life

…on what disruption theory isn’t, and what the data tells us:

…on why the next big thing starts out like a toy:

a16z Video: Why the Next Big Thing Will Look Like a Toy

…on defining and understanding disruption theory:

‘Disruption, Disrupted’: A Roundup


photo credit: Clayton Christensen’s ‘napkin sketch’ for Sonal Chokshi

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