An Introduction by Clay Christensen
I don’t know of anyone who has ever tried to do R&D on management theory at this sort of scale, so I’m hoping that you will join us on this journey. Bring us your questions, your anomalies, and your ideas – and we’ll do our best to do the same.
I’ve spent much of my academic career studying, developing, and teaching theories about management. There is no single grand theory that explains everything about management, of course. But there are certain theories about different dimensions of a manager’s job that truly are useful. And there are a lot more theories that need to be developed and improved.
As I have looked across these theories, there seems to be a pattern— a process of sorts—by which many of the best of these theories have been developed. So a few years ago my friend Dave Sundahl and I decided to write about this pattern in the process of developing theories in management. We decided to do this not just to be more productive in my own research, but to help other scholars at earlier points in their careers to develop better theories themselves
Because this project about how to build better theories promises not to have a beginning and an ending, it made little sense to communicate our findings and our frustrations in a book. Rather, we decided to build this website by which we could help each other how to build and use good theories about management.
To date, I have written 11 books and more than 100 articles. I wrote only four of these by myself. The others were co-authored by academic friends, a large number of current and former students, and several executives who have used the theories that have emerged from my research. I am grateful to them for the process they helped me follow, and the result – some very good theories about management.
Beyond the work of these colleagues, however, there now are innumerable articles and papers by academic researchers, entrepreneurs and journalists that I have never met that are writing about disruption and other of our theories. These too are colleagues, of a different sort – because I know most of them only by reading what they write. There seem to be three types of these colleagues. The first of these agree with me and my colleagues, and want to build upon and apply the theories. The second are people who found anomalies – phenomena for which the theory cannot account. We are grateful for colleagues like these, because the only way that my theories can become our theories is when, as Thomas Kuhn prescribed, these colleagues work with us to restate, redefine, and modify the theory, to account for what they have found. Anomalies also help us to define more clearly the boundaries of the theory.
We also welcome colleagues from the third group – though they mostly visit simply to disagree with one of these theories without taking the time to understand what the theories really are saying. We hope that through their visit with us on this website, they will reframe their interactions with us in ways that help all of us to improve what is known. We thrive off the application of the theories; the discovery of anomalies; and informed debate and discussion.
We hope that this website will help us understand and improve each other and the theories about management that we are trying to discuss.