Lepore vs. Christensen: Has Disruptive Innovation Been Mortally Wounded?


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Excerpted from a Forbes.com article by Craig Hatkoff and Irwin Kula: We believe the rumors of the death of disruptive innovation have been greatly exaggerated by Harvard Professor Jill Lepore. But many have begun to question what hidden motives might underly Lepore’s frontal assault in the The New Yorker on disruptive innovation theory and it’s creator, fellow Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen. Schopenhauer tells us that hidden motives are almost always visible to others and his quote on self-reflection might provide a clue as to her “hidden motives” that might not even be obvious to Lepore herself: at Harvard the humanities concentration (including history) is in “steep decline.”

While it is hard to dismiss completely that her position as an “acolyte” of Professor Michael Porter having no impact on Lepore’s reporting, let us set aside the possibility of Harvard politics playing a role in her mean-spirited and point-missing essay. But one should keep in mind the psychological impact of the ongoing debate between Professors Porter and Christensen, Harvard’s two biggest superstars, about the future of Harvard Business School This debate was prominently featured recently on the front page of the New York Times’ Sunday business section.

Professor Lepore characterizes “the rhetoric of disruption as a language of panic, fear, asymmetry, and disorder…in which an upstart refuses to play by the established rules of engagement, and blows things up.” But what might have happened had Lepore simply applied Christensen’s predictive framework of disruptive innovation to her own discipline of history, and the humanities in general at Harvard that according to its own study and self-assessment seem to be in “steep decline”…

Read the full Forbes article online on the Off White Papers blog. Originally written by Craig Hatkoff and Irwin Kula and published on July 1st, 2014, the Off White Papers are part of Forbes’ Leadership section, contemplating the deeper, disruptive angles of historically and emerging innovations from healthcare and politics to arts and culture.  


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