Jan 2020

Clayton Christensen: A Giant of Uncommon Intellect, Teaching Prowess and Kindness

Among the many hats he wore, Clay Christensen, of disruptive innovation and Harvard Business School fame, was an educator. Few were better.

As Southern New Hampshire University President Paul LeBlanc told the Boston Globe, Christensen was “maybe the best teacher I’ve ever known.” Given the number of educators there, LeBlanc is in a position to know.

Christensen—or Clay, as I called my mentor, friend, co-founder, and coauthor who passed away last week—was a master storyteller. Clay was an expert at weaving the pertinent details of a story together to illustrate a larger truth. Although you’d never guess it from his slow, soft and subdued speaking style, he knew how to land his punch lines. When top professionals—educators, journalists, executives, politicians and the like—asked him questions, he typically answered with a story so that he would help you learn how to think, not what to think.

Given the evidence that human brains are wired to learn through stories, his storytelling skill was a key asset as an educator.


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