Tribute to an academic

Clayton Christiansen, a Harvard Business School professor, died last month. He left behind an outstanding body of work, including the Theory of Disruptive Innovation.  A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market-leading firms, products and alliances.

This theory has been called the most influential business idea of the early 21st century. An example of disruptive innovation is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia written and edited by volunteers. It disrupted the traditional model of the printed encyclopedia, which was written by paid experts. The impact on the former market leader, Encyclopedia Britannica, was so great that it ended its print production after 244 years in 2012.

However, it was his 2010 Harvard Business Review article, How Will You Measure Your Life, that I wish to share to honor him. This article was taken from his speech to the MBA class on how to find meaning in life. Using the theories he taught in class, he challenged his students to find answers to three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?

Christiansen used Herzberg’s Motivation Theory to answer the first question.  Herzberg asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money, but the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others and be recognized for achievements.

Christiansen believes that management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. Doing (financial) deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.

A theory that is helpful in answering the second question—How can I ensure that my relationship with my family proves to be an enduring source of happiness?—concerns how strategy is defined and implemented. He challenged the students to keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents and energy. How they prioritize these will ultimately shape their life’s strategy.

The theory of marginal costs and marginal revenues is what Christiansen used to address the third question—how to live a life of integrity (stay out of jail). He believes that most students unconsciously employ the marginal cost doctrine in their personal lives when they choose between right and wrong. He explained that the marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”

He ends this article with this final recommendation: “Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.”

May angels carry you home, Professor Christiansen. The management world we live in is a different, better place for your academic contributions. And yes, your life is judged a great success!


I would like to invite all alumnae of St. Theresa’s College Manila to our grand homecoming on February 22, Saturday at the Grand Ballroom of Sofitel Philippine Plaza. The homecoming will be a fun 80’s party dubbed “Kahit Saan, Kahit Kailan... Bongga ka, ‘Day!” The event will be led by this year’s Golden Jubilarians High School Class of 1970, Ruby Jubilarians High School 1980. It will also feature High School 1975, 1965, 1960 and 1955 and College 1965. Special guests are the Kundirana group with singers from High School 1980. Major sponsors are BDO Unibank Inc., Amaia Land Corp. and Gerald and Agnes Hassell of High School 1970. Registration will start at 2:30 p.m followed by an anticipated Mass at 4 p.m. and then dinner at 6 p.m.  The program will be capped with dancing to the music of Dindo and Ryan Band.

Tickets are at P1,700 each covering admission, dinner and the souvenir program. Registration may be made through the class representatives or the Secretariat Essle Lopez at  0917-574-2688 or email

The author is the Graduate Program Coordinator of the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. She can be contacted at The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.

Topics: Green Light , Tribute to an academic , Clayton Christiansen , Theory of Disruptive Innovation , How Will You Measure Your Life
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