The world remembers Clayton Christensen as one of the most influential business management thought leaders of all time. I remember him as a college roommate and friend.
At 6’ 8” Clayton Christensen was an imposing figure. My first impression of this BYU roommate was that he was someone to look up to. Over time, I realized that physical stature was the least of his qualities. My second thought was the upcoming intramural basketball season. With Clay on our team, I was sure we'd dominate! Our team won a respectable second place.
Clayton spent a year at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He received a Ph.D. at Harvard and became one of the most sought-after business writers of the last 20 years. His book ‘The Innovator's Dilemma’ became the foundation for many Silicon Valley startups.
OnStar CEO Chet Huber said, “You could fill Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots play, with people who legitimately thought they were one of Clay’s best friends.” I understand.
During the Dotcom era, I worked with a lot of his students from the Harvard MBA program. Clayton and I shared emails and calls during that frantic time. The last email conversation was in the fall of 2015, as his health problems had become more severe. The world considers Clayton one of the greatest business minds of all time, and he was in constant demand. Yet, I always felt he had time for me. Yes, time for me, and time for all the other friends who could fill Gillette Stadium. That was one of the unique gifts he had.
How Will You Measure Your Life?
After Clayton had his first health issues, he began teaching a class at Harvard. It centered on the question: How Will You Measure Your Life? Some very successful people he had gone to school with were ending up in jail. He wanted his students to learn how to apply his business principles to find meaning in their lives. His goal was to help them avoid undesirable outcomes—such as jail time.
Clay passed away at age 67 on January 23, 2020. That day the world lost a great spirit, a great mind, and a great person--and I lost one of my heroes.