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Tom Keene Talks to Harvard's Clayton Christensen

Why did you write the The Innovator’s Dilemma?

I built a company before becoming a professor, and when I saw competitors fail, you could not attribute it to ineptitude. These were smart people who seemed to be making the right decisions, and yet they still stumbled. Why is success so hard to achieve and sustain? I didn’t feel we had an answer to that question. As an HBS professor I started to see the same phenomenon of what caused successful companies to fail. So I wrote the book.


You talk about innovation coming up from below and threatening companies. What can companies up above do to hold it off?

It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. So you need to maximize the performance of the existing company as long as you can, but use your capital to nurture somebody coming up from below.


Is Microsoft (MSFT) an example of what you’re talking about?

I worry that they are. As the smartphone disrupts the laptop computer, Microsoft just isn’t there. They’re trying to get in there, but their business model just won’t allow it.


Why is it so hard for senior managers to spot a threat?

There’s a fundamental problem about the world, which is that data is only available about the past. If you wait until the data is clear that you’re getting disrupted, you’re going to be taking action when the game is over.

Keene hosts Bloomberg Surveillance 7-10 a.m. ET on 1130 AM in the New York metro area and nationally on SiriusXM 113.

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