Robert J. Samuelson: Harvard's dreary Innovation Debate

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  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    June 28, 2014 3:41 p.m.

    Harvard innovation = oxymoron.

  • Third try screen name Mapleton, UT
    June 27, 2014 9:29 a.m.

    Leaders of large corporations look to Harvard for the flavor-of-the-week business book.
    Much of the "success" of MBAs boils down to reducing costs and using technology to move money into the treasury.
    But there is very little an MBA can do to improve the product, except to tell the CEO to cheapen it or buy it from an off-shore manufacturer.
    It's unclear why executives read and follow these books. Perhaps they fear missing the next Deming.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    June 26, 2014 12:09 p.m.

    If disruptive innovation were a good idea for everyone and everything, then divorce would strengthen families and cafeteria food fights would improve the menu.

    The problem with the whole disruptive concept is that policy makers have figured that since some new technologies create new problems that all improvements should begin with destruction.

    It's an easy, lazy idea. Essentially, the destroyer doesn't have to worry about what their new idea will harm, because wrecking things is good.

    Case in point, the untested, untried, failing policies of privatizing public education. A generation of children is being hurt by this, but it's all good to the "reformists." After all, if they fail, they can always destroy again.

  • Baron Scarpia Logan, UT
    June 26, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    @ Marxist

    this is one of academia's dirty secrets... Create a debate that is largely inconsequential for the real world, but it plants the seeds for other academics to write more articles to be published to debate the issue in obscure, inaccessible journals for other academics to spawn even more research articles.

    This is all done at taxpayer expense at public universities where faculty get out of teaching to write this stuff, some of which takes years to get through the peer-review process. The faculty get tenure for life-time employment... but pressing real world problems that business academics could be addressing go without much attention (e.g., how to deal with the financial risks of looming climate change or how business will operate with fewer natural resources).

    Much of the finance and economic research that led to fall of Lehman Brothers and pushed other Wall Street firms to engage in risky behaviors that resulted in the 2008 Great Recession has been largely discredited and criticized as an example of how finance and economic theories have hurt society and taxpayers, and much of that research was paid for by taxpayers.

    Academia's dirty secrets...

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    June 26, 2014 10:37 a.m.

    “So the Harvard Innovation Debate is a dud.” I’m not so sure about that. It brings up some interesting ideas.

    I especially enjoyed the idea of “self-induced upheavals,” in areas outside of business, that can cause much more harm than good. We’ve all seen that. Sure, borrowing from other industries, and emulating best practices is a great idea, as long as they are truly applicable, and as long as they are truly best practices and not just the latest rage in a culture of groupthink.

    Sure, people should be receptive to change, but not just any change. Change for the good? Yes, otherwise NO.

    It’s interesting too that in major corporations, prior to GW’s Great Recession, employee evaluations looked favorably upon “risk takers.” After the bust though, you didn’t hear nearly as much about risk-taking being a virtue.

    Creative destruction is all well and good. But destructive destruction is just . . . Destructive.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    June 26, 2014 9:49 a.m.

    Christensen has been wrong all along, like most business-school theorists who pretend to be scientists. Most of the "disrupted" companies he cites, like US Steel, are still the biggest players. The current overblown screaming about "disruption" is the same as "re-engineering" or "deconstruction," both big Business School Memes just a few years ago and now forgotten.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    June 26, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    Christensen's view is part observation and part exhortation.

    Unquestionably, some technologies have wide and fundamental disruption. But, the exhortation to "disrupt or be disrupted" has spread beyond technology to become a management philosophy, in general.

    For example, Southwest Airlines is not using different technology, but the "ultra low cost carriers" in the airline business have been highly disruptive, forcing other airlines to follow suit or be rendered defunct.

    This has resulted in the starting salary for airline pilots being about $22,000 a year, which has created a pilot shortage, but no airlines dare raise their salaries. Some commuter airlines have had to cancel flights because they had no pilots to fly them, and the FAA raised the mandatory retirement age of pilots because otherwise there would be widespread flights with no pilots.

    Ironically, Professor Christensen's edict to disrupt-or-die has helped elevate economic anxiety in young people, lowering the birthrate.

    The comedian Louis C.K. has a very insightful - and funny - comedy bit called "Everything is great, but nobody's happy". We're awash in new technological wonders, but our satisfaction with life has eroded, considerably because people are economic commodities.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    June 26, 2014 12:35 a.m.

    Compared to the pressing issues of the day like the withering middle class, middle class debt load, student debt load, top heavy distributions of wealth and income - Christensn's stuff is just so much fluff. Clayton should explore some issues that matter.