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Clayton Christensen Speaks to LDSTech Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Greg Duerden   
Friday, 14 March 2014

Clayton Christensen, considered the world’s leading management thinker, discussed ‘Disruptive Technology’ at an LDSTech broadcast that included the Church’s IT department on April 5, 2013. He pointed out how LDSTech has taken this concept to heart.

Christensen is the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth. His ideas have been widely used in industries and organizations throughout the world.

He is also the best-selling author of nine books, including one of his most recent books, The Power of Everyday Missionaries. One, The Innovator’s Dilemma, received the Global Business Book Award as the best business book of the year in 1997 and was named by The Economist, in 2011, as one of the six most important books about business ever written.

Two levels

“Companies make two levels of technology,” Christensen said. The first level “makes sustaining technologies that make good products better.” He illustrated by telling the history of PC processors, which back in the 1980s “couldn’t keep up with most typists’ fingers,” but now processor speeds have increased tremendously and can handle so much more than the Intel 286 chip, once considered so powerful.

The next level of company technology is one that uses what he called disruptive innovations or disruptive technologies. These are innovations that that make something so much more affordable and simple that larger and broader populations of customers can have access to it.

An example he used was Digital Equipment, a very successful company in the 1970s and into 1980s that had a brilliant management team. They were successful until 1988, when they “dropped off the cliff” in the business sense and dramatically failed, because of the decisions of that same management team.

But Digital wasn’t the only one in that time period that failed. The companies that made mini-computers “all failed at the same time.” These were well known and respected companies, like Prime, Data General, Hewlett-Packard, Wang, Honeywell, and more.

Hard Choice

“Here’s what happened,” said Christensen: “When management looked out the window they saw everyone was buying personal computers. Remember,” he said, “this was a time when personal computers were crummy.”

This gave Digital’s management a hard choice:

  • Make better products, to sell for better profits to their best customers.
  • Make what they see as ‘worse’ products.

“It is just a very difficult thing for smart people to do what doesn’t really make sense at the time,” Christensen said.

Restoration of Questions

Christensen brought up the Restoration of the Gospel as an example of the Lord’s disruptive technology. The idea that we could do remarkable things was the basis of the Restoration, he stated.

Until a 14 year-old boy asked which church he should join, religion had stopped asking questions of heaven. Joseph Smith asked a simple question and he got a simple answer. When Joseph prayed again, he asked a question and Moroni was sent several times (repetition is a basic gospel principle). “Step by step, question by question he got answers. The Restoration was Restoration of Questions!”

Brother Christensen gave the large audience a historical quiz, asking who invented Sunday School or Primary in the LDS Church, who gave us Family Home Evenings, Institutes, Missionary Lessons, etc. HE explained that Sunday School came from Brother Valentine in 1859 doing it in his home on 2nd West and 2nd South in Salt Lake City until Brigham Young heard about it and standardized it for the whole Church.

Sister Rogers in Farmington started Primary when she wanted to create boys worthy to marry her daughters and, again, Brigham Young adopted it for the Church.

Family Home Evening was the idea of a Stake President in Richfield in 1912.

Institutes came from a professor at the University of Idaho (Br. Sessions) until President Heber J. Grant developed it into the LDS Institutes of Religion.

Missionary Lessons came from a BYU professor. When he was a zone leader in the Northwestern States Mission, he wrote six lessons that became known as the ‘Anderson Plan.’

“Do you see a pattern here? Almost all programs and institutions of the Church come from the members like you and me,” he said. “That’s the way it works in the Church. People in the peripheries develop the solutions to the problems. When it is solved the Church gives it a place to stick. Doctrine and Covenants 58 tells us we need to be actively engaged in solving problems. I’m worried about those who don’t solve problems.” And then he complimented the people in his audience by saying, “You are solving problems every day, right here. And you get the most important insights as you solve problems at the core.” Christensen closed his discussion with his testimony.

To see all he said, check out the LDSTech Broadcast Archive to watch the April 2013 Broadcast.

LDSTech, as Christensen said above, is already performing disruptive technology. There are opportunities to serve in the LDSTech community right from your home. Those interested in part-time or full-time Church Service Mission (CSM) opportunities can contact the CSM Coordinators at (801) 842-4771, or e-mail them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . You could also fill out the LDSTech Missionary Form.

If you have language skills and are interested in becoming Area Technology Specialists in countries outside of the U.S. (Korea, Dominican Republic, Central and South America, etc.) contact the ATS Coordinators at 801-240-6226 or email them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  


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