Innovation

If the next time I read something about Clayton Christensen is never then that will be too soon, but at least Jill Lepore’s takedown is characteristically excellent. In the short essay, she manages to pack in two points that I thought were particularly powerful. The first is that curated case-studies are a terrible way of developing a theory: essentially, they allow the theorist to choose only convenient examples. The second is that public-oriented institutions (e.g., schools, universities, museums) are of a different nature from for-profit widget-makers, and a theory developed around the widget industry is going to have dubious relevance at best for an institution whose “product” is (e.g.) education.

Obviously there’s more in the article than just these two points; someone who cared more about start-ups and less about academia might pull out different messages as key. Also, of course, Lepore is just a great writer. I particularly like the line “Ideas that come from business schools are exceptionally well marketed,” which I find understated but devastating.

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