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In Memory of Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen died of cancer on Thursday at the age of 67. I consider him to be one of the greatest business writers in history and his work has had a profound impact on me both personally and professionally. I never met him personally, but when I read this news I felt as if I had lost a great guide in my life and an author of the operating manual for my career.

“Innovator’s Dilemma” has been hailed by the Economist and others as one of the most important business books ever written. In the late 90’s when I was just joining my first startup, Christensen’s words shed light on the work we were doing to bring web-enabled solutions to the healthcare supply chain.

"Innovator’s Dilemma" Quotes
  • “The techniques that worked so extraordinarily well when applied to sustaining technologies, however, clearly failed badly when applied to markets or applications that did not yet exist.”
  • “Disruptive technologies typically enable new markets to emerge.”
  • “Disruptive technology should be framed as a marketing challenge, not a technological one.”
  • “The fear of cannibalizing sales of existing products is often cited as a reason why established firms delay the introduction of new technologies.”
  • “Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use.
  • “But in disruptive situations, action must be taken before careful plans are made. Because much less can be known about what markets need or how large they can become, plans must serve a very different purpose: They must be plans for learning rather than plans for implementation.”
  • “The strategies and plans that managers formulate for confronting disruptive technological change, therefore, should be plans for learning and discovery rather than plans for execution. This is an important point to understand because managers who believe they know a market’s future will plan and invest very differently from those who recognize the uncertainties of a developing market.”
  • “In reality, spinning out is an appropriate step only when confronting disruptive innovation.”
  • “An organization’s capabilities reside in two places. The first is in its processes—the methods by which people have learned to transform inputs of labor, energy, materials, information, cash, and technology into outputs of higher value. The second is in the organization’s values, which are the criteria that managers and employees in the organization use when making prioritization decisions.”

Then in 2008, just as we were starting InVivoLink, “Innovator’s Prescription” became a timely translation of the principles of disruptive technology for the healthcare market. I’ve always felt that healthcare entrepreneurs are at a disadvantage if they don’t read it.

During the early days of Hashed Health and the Nashville Blockchain Meetup “brew club” days, we were always being asked for our reading list, so we posted one for the world on the Resources page on our website. This list has evolved over time, but one of the few books that has remained on this list is “Innovators Prescription.”

“Innovator’s Prescription” is required reading for Hashed employees because it describes the power of new technologies that simplify and improve access.

I see blockchain as a new, foundational, simplifying technology. It enables us to reduce the complexity in how assets and value flow across healthcare’s value chains. Over the last four years, we have seen that technology mature and begin to solve problems. We are now recognizing patterns in its productive use. Now we are building rules and tools for its use. The technology has found embedded business models that promise to dramatically lower costs. Ecosystems of companies are aligning around these new low-cost models.

"Innovator’s Prescription" Quotes
  • “The fact that hospitals and physicians' practices are not job-focused, but instead aspire to do anything for anybody, has caused them not to be integrated correctly. In their current configuration, they cannot be consumer-driven.”
  • “Reimbursement has become the primary mechanism through which the regulation of doctors occurs in the United States.2 To the extent that doctors cannot afford to do things they are not paid to do, and will gladly do more of those things they are paid handsomely to do, the decisions about whether, when, and how much to pay doctors for the various things they do has unwittingly become one of the most pervasive and powerful regulatory mechanisms ever devised.”
  • “What makes the encumbrance of reimbursement even more distortive and binding is that most prices insurers pay are not set by market forces. Rather, they are administered prices that reek of the pricing algorithms and backroom negotiations used in communist systems.”
  • “In our distorted fee-for-service world, the work to coordinate and oversee care just isn't as profitable as other activities.”
  • “There is not a single billing code for patient adherence or improvement, or for helping patients stay well.

Then, in 2011, I read “How Will You Measure Your Life?” which seemed to put the disruptive innovations that have taken over the world in context. The lessons in this book moved from the operations of my companies to the core beliefs and core purpose of my business and personal life.

“How Will You Measure Your Life” Quotes
  • “Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.”
  • “In your life, there are going to be constant demands for your time and attention. How are you going to decide which of those demands gets resources? The trap many people fall into is to allocate their time to whoever screams loudest, and their talent to whatever offers them the fastest reward. That’s a dangerous way to build a strategy.”
  • “If you defer investing your time and energy until you see that you need to, chances are it will already be too late.”
  • “You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy for your life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy. In the end, a strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it's effectively implemented.”
  • “In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things, to succeed, and be given more and more responsibility to shoulder.”
  • “Because if the decisions you make about where you invest your blood, sweat, and tears are not consistent with the person you aspire to be, you’ll never become that person.”
  • To me, he was a kind and good influence that seems lost in the often brutal and uninspiring Twitterverse.

He was like the McDonalds milkshakes he studied. Throughout my career, there was a job to be done and I feel like Clayton Christensen knew how to do it.

“When I have my interview with my God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen, whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage—a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics of that matter in measuring my life. This realization, which occurred nearly fifteen years ago, guided me every day to seek opportunities to help people in ways tailored to their individual circumstances. My happiness and my sense of worth has been immeasurably improved as a result.”
Clayton Christensen

My guess is that he nailed the interview on Thursday.


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