Thursday, September 24, 2015

Disruption Disrupted

The Chronicle of Higher Education examines challenges to Clay Christensen’s theory of disruption. His The Innovator’s Dilemma has become one of the bestselling and most influential books on business strategy.  The historian Jill Lepore wrote an interesting critique of Christensen’s work   for the New Yorker last year. Now, Andrew King  and Baljir Baatartogtokh have a new paper in MIT Sloan Management Review, asking “How Useful is the Theory of Disruptive Innovation?” King and Brent Goldlfarb also have evidence of broader problems in empirical research in management (the problem they examine is not unique to management research). The Chronicle article is interesting both on the specific issue of Christensen’s theory but also on the difficulty King faced in publishing  a challenge to Christensen’s work:

“King and Tucci presented their findings at a conference in 1999. King recalls sitting at a restaurant soon after and a well-known figure in the field approached, shook his hand, and said, "You’re the guy who burst Christensen’s bubble." But it didn’t turn out that way. "We wrote a couple of papers, which we had to tone down a little bit because of the referees," says Tucci. The paper — working title: "Wrong. Wrong. Wrong." — was too polemical, they were told. When it finally appeared in Management Science, in 2002, the article had been smothered in theory and jargon. The published title: "Incumbent Entry Into New Market Niches: The Role of Experience and Managerial Choice in the Creation of Dynamic Capabilities." As Brent Goldfarb, an associate professor of management at the University of Maryland business school and friend of King, says, "You have to look really hard to realize King and Tucci slaughtered Christensen." - See more at:

The historian's craft and economics

My paper (with Mary Eschelbach Hansen) “The historian’s craft and economics” is now available on First View at the Journal of Institutional Economics:

History refers both to the past and to the systematic study of the past. Attempts to make a case for history in economics generally emphasize the first definition. There are benefits from increased attention to the past. This paper argues that significant benefits can be gained from increased attention to the systematic study of the past, the historian's craft. The essence of the historian's craft is the critical evaluation of sources. Failure to critically evaluate sources has the potential to lead to erroneous conclusions, whether one is using historical documents or more recently created data.