<iframe src="https://5923915.fls.doubleclick.net/activityi;src=5923915;type=hbx_core;cat=hbx_b0;dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;ord=1;num=1?" width="1" height="1" frameborder="0" style="display:none">
HBX Business Blog

The HBX Guide to a Disruptive Valentine’s Day

Posted by Katie Alex Stevens on February 14, 2017 at 1:06 PM


In her Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning asked "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." Here at HBX, we thought we'd celebrate Valentine's Day by applying - in a playful, lighthearted, and altogether not-terribly-scientific manner - some of the lenses on innovation from our Disruptive Strategy course to see how two different personality types would go about expressing their love on this day.

Relationship stage: Early

The job-to-be-done: Impress a new love interest by putting your best foot forward.

A sustainer's approach: Looking to spare no expense in the quest for maximum primping and pampering, the sustainer will seek out the snazziest of the full-service salons. A service menu a mile long? Custom options to address every grooming concern he knew he had... and many more he didn't? The sustainer wants all of these bells and whistles at his disposal.

A disruptor's approach: Unconvinced that she really needs all that's on offer at the pricey full-service salon, the disruptor is willing to take a chance on a blow dry bar like Drybar or its smaller local analogues. With stylists well-trained on a pared-down list of options for blow drying her unruly locks into submission, she can come away with a polished date night look quickly and affordably.

Relationship stage: Mid

The job-to-be-done: Set the stage for that serious conversation... and maybe even pop the question!

A sustainer's approach: For a momentous occasion such as this, the sustainer turns to the restaurant that's pulling out all the stops to ratchet up the romance. The 6-course, 560-euro-per-person Valentine's Day Dinner overlooking Paris from the second floor of the Eiffel Tower? Just the thing!

A disruptor's approach: With all due respect to Paris, the disruptor sees an opportunity to capture some of that magic with pluck and ingenuity. Armed with a well-chosen soundtrack, a decent bottle of Syrah, and Blue Apron's meal kit for Flank Steak au Jus - complete with pre-apportioned ingredients and a photo-illustrated recipe card - that arrived on his doorstep this morning, he can whip up a French-inspired evening with a personalized feel that is more than "good enough" in the eyes of his beloved.

Relationship stage: Well-Established

The job-to-be-done: Affirm that long-standing commitment.

A sustainer's approach: Not willing to rest on her laurels no matter how long she's known her beloved, the sustainer looks to commemorate this holiday with the latest in ever-more-exclusive offerings from travel consultants. "A private tour of the Hermitage and access to the countryside palaces of the czars?" How about an audience with the Dalai Lama? These offerings continue to improve over time, and the sustainer is ready and waiting for what's next!

A disruptor's approach: Unconvinced that the offerings arm race of the sustainer's travel consultants are really what she's looking for, the disruptor takes a different approach: With the robust technology of flight and hotel aggregators like Momondo at her disposal, she's able to capitalize on many of the same advantages and tricks of the trade that used to only be the province of travel agents - at her convenience and tailored to her budget. She may wind up piecing together a flight that lands outside the city center in Rome's secondary airport, or viewing the Sistine Chapel not in private but with 1,999 of her closest friends, but she'll have experienced Rome with her sweetheart, and that will have made all the difference (apologies to Robert Frost).

Want to learn more about disruption and other theories from Professor Christensen? Disruptive Strategy will equip you with the tools, frameworks, and intuition to make a difference.

Learn more about HBX Disruptive Strategy with Clay Christensen


About the Author

Katie Alex Stevens is an Associate Product Manager at HBX, working on Disruptive Strategy with Clayton Christensen among other courses. Before completing her MBA, she trained as a medievalist and classicist in the US and UK, and still enjoys a good dusty tome - preferably with a glass of Greek wine by her side and her new puppy by her feet!

Topics: HBX Insights, HBX Disruptive Strategy

Disrupting the Status Quo: Student Spotlight on Disruptive Strategy Participant Daniella Patrick

Posted by HBX on December 13, 2016 at 9:55 AM

2016-12-12 13_46_28-HBX Disruptive Strategy Student Profile _ Daniella - YouTube.png
Daniella Patrick, Accenture Innovation Lab Product Manager, STEM mentor, and HBX Disruptive Strategy Participant

Daniella Patrick breaks down barriers, opens doors, creates opportunity, empowers women, and redefines the way people view themselves and the worlds in which they live. By day, Daniella is an Innovation Lab Product Manager at Accenture—an international consulting firm working at the intersection of business and technology. As the Innovation Lab Product Manager, Daniella works with a team building digital solutions to disrupt the world of human resources. When she's not in the lab, Daniella is teaching and mentoring young women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and challenging the conventional thinking of "what an engineer looks like". 

While waitressing tables in high school, Daniella's grandmother questioned her as to what she wanted to do—how was she going to spend her life. Daniella knew she enjoyed improving processes, finding problems and employing new ways to solve them. Her grandmother suggested engineering and Daniella embraced it wholeheartedly. She made it her mission to learn mathematics and didn't stop until she earned a masters in Mathematics from New York University, adding to her BS in Mechanical Engineering. 

Daniella grew up knowing that no idea was too big and no dream was unattainable. Her mom, a single mother, was determined to succeed as a parent and still lead a successful career. Daniella points to her mom's creativity and resolve as inspiration, "When you have a life full of barriers and struggles, it's easy to succumb to it. It's easy to say this is all I can do. But for someone like my mom, she always pushed those limitations and never accepted no for an answer."

Daniella embraces and continues to build on her mother's approach to life. As a first generation college graduate, Daniella recognizes the importance of providing opportunities to people who thought they could never achieve their goals. She deems this "disrupting the status quo" and encourages us to think about the world as not just for a certain type of people—doing so, she says, will "change the way people envision the future." 

Want to learn more about disruption and other theories from Professor Christensen? Disruptive Strategy will equip you with the tools, frameworks, and intuition to make a difference.

Learn more about HBX Disruptive Strategy with Clay Christensen

Topics: HBX Student Spotlight, HBX Disruptive Strategy

4 Keys to Understanding Clayton Christensen's Theory of Disruptive Innovation

Posted by Chris Larson on November 15, 2016 at 11:53 AM


Disruptive innovation has been a buzzword since Clayton Christensen coined it back in the mid 1990s. But with everyone discussing disruption when it comes to each new business or product that emerges, how can we distinguish between new entrants that pose a threat and those that are best ignored?

Here are four key things to remember when assessing whether the next new company is likely to disrupt your business:

1. The common understanding of disruption IS NOT disruption according to Christensen

Let’s start with the basic understanding of disruption. According to Merriam Webster, disruption is “to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way: to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something).” If this definition is applied to business, then really anything that enters a market and is successful can be seen as “disruptive.” But is this how Christensen defined the word when writing in the 1990s?

A great article by Ilan Mochari discusses the misuse of the word disruption when referring to business. As he clarifies, disruption is “what happens when the incumbents are so focused on pleasing their most profitable customers that they neglect or misjudge the needs of their other segments.” 

2. Disruption can be low-end or new-market

These differences are laid out in Disruptive Strategy with Clayton Christensen. Low-end disruption refers to businesses that come in at the bottom of the market and serve customers in a way that is “good enough.” These are generally the lower profit markets for the incumbent and thus, when these new businesses enter, the incumbents move futher “upstream.” In other words, they put their focus on where the greater profit margins are.

New-market disruption refers to businesses that compete against non-consumption in lower margin sectors of a market. Similar to low-end disruption, the products offered are generally seen as “good enough,” and the emerging business is able to be profitable at these lower prices. The main difference between the two types of disruption lies in the fact that low-end disruption focuses on overserved customers, and new-market disruption focuses on underserved customers.

3. Christensen’s disruption is a process, rather than a product or service

When innovative new products or services – iPhone, Tesla’s electric cars, Uber, and the like – launch and grab the attention of the press and consumers, do they qualify as disruptors in their industries? Writing in Harvard Business Review, Christensen cautions us that it takes time to determine whether an innovator’s business model will succeed. He cites Netflix as an example that didn’t threaten Blockbuster at first – its DVDs-by-mail service didn’t satisfy the needs of customers who wanted to get their hands on the latest new release instantaneously – but, in shifting to an on-demand streaming model, was able to siphon away Blockbuster’s core customers before the company could stage an adequate response.

Will the next hot new launch be a flash in the pan, or a formidable competitor? Keeping a close eye on the process – is that product or service evolving its business model to better serve customers’ needs? – will help you evaluate the extent of the threat.

4. Choose your battles wisely

If you are a current incumbent and want to be on the lookout for a possibly disruptive emerging business, the clarification of what disruption is certainly helps. Every fire that is started doesn’t necessarily need to be put out, nor will it threaten your house. If you treat every fire as dangerous because someone else calls it “disruptive,” you will soon discover that it isn’t possible to put them all out, and you will waste your resources in attempting to do so. The fires you have to worry about are the ones that truly threaten you, and understanding the correct meaning and application of the word disruption certainly will help you in identifying and targeting the truly disruptive fires.

Understanding disruption is also helpful if you are looking for opportunities to start or scale your business. An understanding of disruption, coupled with Christensen’s other theory of "jobs to be done" can help you create products and services that will be desired by customers, and if you play your cards right, will be left alone by incumbents. 

Want to learn more about disruption and other theories from Professor Christensen? Disruptive Strategy will equip you with the tools, frameworks, and intuition to make a difference.

Learn more about HBX Disruptive Strategy with Clay Christensen


About the Author

Chris Larson was an intern at HBX for summer 2016 who worked with the marketing and product management teams. His background is in all things Russian, but he is interested in business and just started his MBA at Oxford University.

Topics: HBX Insights, HBX Disruptive Strategy

Clay Christensen's New Theory Of Innovation Has Everything To Do With Hiring

Posted by Gwen Moran on October 25, 2016 at 10:23 AM

Clay-Fast-Company.png[Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images]

This post was originally published on Fast Company.

Business schools spend a great deal of time teaching would-be entrepreneurs and managers about the differences between features and benefits and their importance. Differentiate your product by tinkering with it to make it better or cheaper. Get to know your customer so you can understand how to sell to them.

Not exactly, says Harvard Business School professor and innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen. In his new book, Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, he and coauthors Karen Dillon, Taddy Hall, and David S. Duncan says that customers don’t buy products and services as such. Instead, they’re hiring them to do a job.

At first, that may seem like a very "insider baseball" distinction. Don’t you have to get to know your customer to understand their needs? Yes and no, Christensen says.

Product Or Service For Hire

Let’s say you have a customer who has a busy and stressful week at work. On Monday, after she walks through the door at 7 p.m., she exercises. On Tuesday, she pulls out a bottle of Jack Daniels and pours herself a drink. On Wednesday, she reads the Bible, and on Thursday, she uses her Xbox. If you’re trying to look at the customer’s attributes and connect the dots between these disparate activities and her overall behavior, it’s confusing. But when you realize that she’s "hiring" these various products to help her unwind, the picture becomes clearer, he explains.

"That's why you need to understand the situations that your customer finds themselves in," says Christensen. That's when they have a "job" and are more likely to buy your product, he says.

Companies that have embraced this model are able to innovate in ways that make it tough to compete. Christensen points to Airbnb as an example. The sleeping-space-for-hire company understands that customers may want to hire a hotel to do a number of jobs: to provide a room with a bed, present a suitable location for a meeting with an important client, or network with other people who are staying there. However, Airbnb is focused on providing a place where people can have a home base to sleep and not be bothered.

"When Airbnb emerged, they were focused on just one of these jobs, and they nailed it," he says.

The Benefits Of A Job Well Done

Such spot-on job performance has its benefits, the authors contend. When you have a deep understanding of the job, you can innovate more specifically to do it well. Rather than broadly guessing at what the customer might want, you can focus on innovation that addresses specific experiences they wish to have and deliver in a more focused manner. When you do that, you enjoy high levels of customer loyalty and repeat business and may even be able to command a premium price.

This offers a competitive advantage to any company that is willing to understand the job rather than the customer. For example, Amazon has turned shopping at disparate locations into a singular, streamlined experience where you can get a staggering number of products in one location and pay for them with one click. That deep understanding came from asking the right questions about the job to be done, Christensen says.

"Just in the shopping experience, if all they do is measure, ‘Did we ship it to you on time?’ That's a very different experience," he explains. Amazon took it a step further by asking, Christensen adds: "‘Did you receive it on time? What was it like to pay for the product, and how hard was it to find the product? What might I buy if I don't buy this? What else could I buy to get the same job done?'" Failure to do so could mean that businesses get better at the wrong things.

Disruption, Redux

This isn’t the first time Christensen has brought fresh thinking to the innovation arena. He coined the term "disruptive innovation" in 1995. It "describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves upmarket, eventually displacing established competitors." He addressed the topic again in his 2011 best seller The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business, and described successes and failures of companies like Intel, HP, and Honda in staying on top of their game.

Christensen, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and open about his faith, says a practice in the Mormon church was part of the inspiration for his thinking about innovation, especially "jobs for hire."

He describes Mormon services delivered by fellow church members who talk about their own experiences. During the week, members have assignments to help each other. While many people feel the desire to help others but don’t know how to do so other than writing a check, Christensen has had to dive in to understand how people need help—in essence, the job that they needed to hire someone to help with, he says. The church's role is to provide that help in a way that strengthens peoples' faith.

"I have responsibility for several other families in our congregation," explains Christensen, "and my job is to be sure that if there are things going on that the rest of us can help with, we help them."

So if there is a measure of divine inspiration in Christensen’s latest book, perhaps it's the fact that we all have fundamental jobs we need done and are looking for the best product or service to fill them. Being the best answer/hire for that job ensures loyalty, whether you're providing retail goods, a place to sleep, or connection to a higher power.

Topics: HBX Insights, HBX Disruptive Strategy

Where to Find Answers to Your Most Pressing HBX Questions

Posted by HBX on August 16, 2016 at 1:42 PM

HBX CORe Platform on a laptop screen

Considering enrolling in an HBX program but still have questions? The HBX team has done a little roundup of existing resources to help you find the answers you've been looking for! 

1. Start With our FAQ Pages

Whether you have questions about course structure, the admissions process, grading, fees, or financial aid, check these pages for answers to dozens of the most common questions we get about our programs:

2. Read Through Facebook Reviews and Past Q&As

We are lucky to have such a rich and supportive community of learners from around the world. Some of them have been kind enough to write up thoughtful reviews of their HBX experiences or join us for Facebook Q&A sessions, answering questions for prospective students. You can read through the entire conversations here: 

3. Learn About Other Past Participants Through Their Student Profiles

“Is this program right for me?” This is a question we hear all the time, but it's a difficult one for us to answer objectively. Often times, what people are really asking is if their educational background, professional goals, interests, or existing skill set will position them for success in an HBX course or if they will find the investment of time, energy, and money to be worthwhile. 

Our Student Profiles are a great resource for anyone who wants to hear firsthand from a variety of past participants about why they chose to participate in our programs, what they hoped to gain from the experience, and how they are using what they learned. 

4. Browse the HBX Blog

The HBX Blog is a place where you can dive a little deeper into the subject areas covered in the HBX programs (i.e. What does Cash Conversion Cycle mean, or why should I study accounting), or for those who want to hear more from students who have participated in an HBX program. Here are a few types of posts you may be interested in:

5. Still have questions? Ask them using #AskHBX on Twitter!

If you've read through these resources and still can't find the answers to some of your burning questions, feel free to ask them on Twitter using #AskHBX. We will keep an eye out for questions and answer as many as we can!

Topics: HBX CORe, HBX Courses, HBX Finance, HBX tips, HBX Disruptive Strategy

3 Keys to Understanding Jobs to be Done

Posted by Chris Larson on August 11, 2016 at 4:54 PM


Taking the Disruptive Strategy with Clayton Christensen course was the first introduction I had to the idea of “jobs to be done.” Professor Christensen's theory essentially explains that people “hire” different products to do “jobs” that they need done. Sounds easy enough, right?

That’s what I thought, too. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t really understand it. Certainly, things in the course helped me better grasp the concept. I could explain the theory to you, give you examples, but I was still missing the deeper understanding of where I could apply it to my everyday life.

I finally had my “ah-ha” moment when I was riding with my mother in the car and watching her simultaneously put on makeup, drive, and talk on the phone. Here is what I learned from this terrifying experience.

1. Observe

You can’t find jobs to be done without observing people. This was my first lesson. Maybe it was the fact that I was scared for my life. Maybe it was because I have seen many women struggle to drive and put on makeup. Whatever the reason, it was in that moment with my mom where my time spent thinking about jobs to be done clicked.

The thought popped into my head, “how could I make this easier and safer?” Then I made the important connection, what was the job to be done here? Help me put on makeup and drive safely? It was the mindset of not taking an idea and then defining a job to be done, but rather observing people and asking the important question, “how could I make this easier/cheaper/better” that led to me seeing a job to be done that my mom could hire a product for.

2. Focus on the Job, Not the Product

Upon further reflection I realized that in that moment of terror and enlightenment, I wasn’t at all worried about the product. Jobs to be done isn’t about the product; that comes later down the line. I had been so focused on the development of the end product that I missed the bigger picture. Finding the product is the end goal in most brainstorming sessions and I think, because of that, we tend to miss the bigger picture: What job are we hiring for? The product will come once the right job is found. That is the truly difficult part.

3. It is a Process

This is a process, a way of thinking. First, I had to understand the theory. I spent time with it and the cases; I thought about it while I was walking around, trying to apply what I'd learned. But, it wasn’t until my understanding of – and mindset towards – the concept had changed that I finally witnessed it firsthand with my mom. I wasn’t contemplating the theory when I was watching her, I was just sitting there with my life flashing before my eyes. But the theory had become a part of my outlook on the world, part of me, and because of that I was able to make the connection.

Maybe jobs to be done is easier than I made it out to be, but for me there was a difference between being able to explain it and find a "job to be done" for already existing products, and identifying a job to be done in real life, from which a product could be developed.

Learn more about Professor Christensen's "jobs to be done" theory HERE.

Want to learn more about "jobs to be done" and other theories from Professor Christensen? Disruptive Strategy will equip you with the tools, frameworks, and intuition to make a difference.

Learn more about HBX Disruptive Strategy with Clay Christensen


About the Author

Chris Larson is an intern at HBX working with the marketing and product management teams. His background is in all things Russian, but he is interested in business and will be starting his MBA at Oxford University this fall.

Topics: Disruptive Strategy, HBX Insights, HBX Disruptive Strategy

POKEMONster: A Job To Be Done?

Posted by Chris Larson on July 12, 2016 at 3:49 PM


If you haven’t heard of the 2016 Pokémon GO craze, you’ve probably been living under a rock (that was me until this morning, so if you are under the rock, you’re not alone). Yes, I said Pokémon. If you were a child of the '90s like me, you probably remember the game in some capacity.

“Gotta catch ‘em all” was the most used phrase in my second grade class; the video games took over, the cards exploded, and it was a big day when my brother opened a card pack that contained a holographic Charizard in it! But, around 2000 was the last time I heard of them until a new mobile app called Pokémon GO launched this week. The app uses phone cameras and GPS signals to create an augmented reality game where players move around the physical world trying to find and catch Pokémon that appear on screen. If you are as confused about the game as I was, The Guardian has a good primer on it.

What's amazing is how widely the game has been downloaded and played in the first week, including players who've never been into Pokémon or video games in the past. According to an article by Reuters featured on Fortune, in two days Pokémon GO added $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value, has surpassed Tinder for total downloads on Android phones, and boasts a daily active user rate that rivals Twitter’s. The average time spent playing the game is 43 minutes a day. That is 43 minutes of quite literally trying to catch ‘em all.

So why the sudden success? Why has Pokémon GO become such a phenomenon and captured the entire world's attention? I have been taking the HBX course Disruptive Strategy with Clayton Christensen, and there is an interesting concept at play here. Is it possible that Nintendo has nailed a difficult “job to be done” perfectly? Possibly.

PokemonGO Interface
Photo: Nintendo/Niantic

People often complain about video games, saying: “they keep you inside” or “they are a time suck” or “it keeps me from getting exercise.” A common complaint about exercise is that it's boring or people do not want to pay for (or travel to) a gym.

While the video game industry hasn’t necessarily attempted to address those issues, the exercise community definitely has. There are Zumba classes, cheap gyms, and home workouts. Watches have been made to track steps and alert you when you are sedentary for too long. But, maybe Nintendo has finally found a way to make video games healthier and exercise more fun.

Is it possible that the “job to be done” here was: “help me avoid being unhealthy while playing video games” or “help me enjoy exercising”? If a company could nail these jobs perfectly, the success of whatever that product was would be monumental. Who wouldn’t want to buy/download/use or “hire” a product that makes video games healthy, or makes you actually want to get outside and be active for 45 minutes?

While this could be considered reading into it too much, and maybe I am, it is interesting to look at the success of the game thus far and note how it fills a job that most people would hire if it was nailed perfectly, to use Clayton Christensen’s wording. Well, Nintendo seems to have nailed this job perfectly, and, at least for the moment, is reaping the rewards.

Want to learn more about "jobs to be done" and other theories from Professor Christensen? Disruptive Strategy will equip you with the tools, frameworks, and intuition to make a difference.

Learn more about HBX Disruptive Strategy with Clay Christensen


About the Author

Chris Larson is an intern at HBX working with the marketing and product management teams. His background is in all things Russian, but is interested in business and will be starting his MBA at Oxford University this fall.

Topics: HBX Insights, HBX Disruptive Strategy