The Guy Who Coined "Disruption" Is a Total Jackass

You probably expected this, but Clayton Christensen—the Harvard professor who coined the term term that's become an almost religious byword in tech—is an arrogant ass. But in a new interview with Businessweek's Drake Bennett, you'll learn he's an even bigger ass that you ever imagined.

Christensen, like some other slowly shriveling white technologists with penises, does a poor job of masking how threatened he is by Jill Lepore. Her recent New Yorker essay makes very short work of disruption as a golden, sacred term—maybe it takes an extremely smart person to fully ridicule an extremely dumb idea.

But Christensen isn't convinced, likely because his career is stacked atop the validity of this particular stupid term—he's That Disruption Guy. In the Businessweek interview, Christensen reveals he's so threatened, in fact, that he starts referring to himself in the third person. Maybe a bruised ego is easier to numb if you're floating above yourself, looking down?

In a stunning reversal, she starts instead to try to discredit Clay Christensen, in a really mean way. And mean is fine, but in order to discredit me, Jill had to break all of the rules of scholarship that she accused me of breaking—in just egregious ways, truly egregious ways. In fact, every one—every one—of those points that she attempted to make [about The Innovator's Dilemma] has been addressed in a subsequent book or article. Every one! And if she was truly a scholar as she pretends, she would have read [those].

Emphasis added. Jill, you know nothing of my work! He gets angrier:

Do the integrated steel companies like U.S. Steel make rail for the railroads? No. Do they make rod and angle iron, Jill? No. Do they make structural steel I-beams and H-beams that you use to make the massive skyscrapers downtown, does U.S. Steel make those beams? Come on, Jill, tell me! No!

When Bennett mentions that an investment fund premised on "disruptive technology" failed, and that Christensen predicted the iPhone would bomb, he again retreats to the third person:

That money was put in the market by somebody who is not Clayton Christensen. So what does that tell you about the theory of disruption, or about Clayton Christensen?

Still: the only name he seems more obsessed with than his own is Jill Lepore's, who he assumes a strange familiarity with:

You keep referring to Lepore by her first name. Do you know her?

I've never met her in my life.

It's probably going to stay that way.

Photo: Getty