In late January Kara Swisher paid tribute to Clay Christensen, who died that month at age 67. Christensen was a Harvard professor of management whose seminal book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” appeared in 1997. His ideas on “disruptive” technologies influenced the founders of many legendary startups in Silicon Valley.
Swisher writes that Professor Christensen’s innovative thinking “took a turn for the worse in tech.”
Silicon Valley failed to marry disruption with a concept of corporate responsibility, and growth at all costs became its motto.
Swisher sees the notion of destructive innovation crystallized in Facebook’s famous slogan: “Move Fast and Break Things.”
I have always wondered why the company chose those words. I have no problem with “move fast,” which Professor Christensen would not have quibbled with, since being nimble was a core competency that he touted. It was the word “break” that stuck in my head like a bad migraine.
Why use a violent and thoughtless word like “break” and not one more hopeful, like “change” or “transform” or “invent”? And, if “break” was to be the choice, what would happen after the breaking? Would there be fixing? Could there be any fixing after the breaking? “Break” sounded painful.
Christensen could inspire with snappy quotables. Swisher cites these:
“It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.”
“Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.”
(Kara Swisher, “Tech Loses a Prophet. Just When It Needs One,” NYTimes, 1-29-20)
(c) 2020 JMN