My first full-time job once I graduated from college was to work for a company called AAC Technologies. It’s a fantastic Chinese company and started working in 2012 (and where I met DingDing when I was interviewing back in 2011!). My first boss, Plek, was the Chief Strategy Officer and a terrific guy. My responsibilities at the job were to help him navigate and negotiate relationships with future partners in the industry, like Dolby, Google, Ericsson, etc. and prepare for any transactions or business deals we would eventually do. I was clueless, to be honest, but just trying to keep up with whatever was asked of me.
My first week on the job, I asked Plek for my homework: what books did I need to read to be successful? Which of his professors from Stanford GSB did he recommend I become familiar with? Which companies did I need to start performing due diligence on? And more.
The first book he recommended to me and one he said I absolutely had to read was The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen. I devoured it in an evening. I went on to read his other works and was even turned on to other disciples of his like Horace Dediu, who was at the time an analyst of ACC’s biggest customer. Christensen later founded a new school focused on Innovation at Harvard University.
The amount of influence Christensen had over Plek’s mindset (and therefore my mindset as he was my first manager), could not be ignored.
That is why it was disheartening to hear that Christensen passed away just a few days ago after a near decade-long battle with cancer.
While I never met the man, he was on my Top 10 list of people to meet in my lifetime. While I may never get the chance now, I’m still grateful for the immense positivity that Christensen had in shaping how I think about conducting business: finding what brings you joy and fulfillment, never forgetting about the long term even when results are hard to see, being steadfast and not compromising on your morals in your personal life, and that humility perplexingly comes from confidence, first and foremost.
I wanted to share with you what I feel is his single most instructive piece of writing. I still strongly recommend The Innovator’s Dilemma, as one of the all-time classics in business literature.
I hope you enjoy this essay (which I’ve linked to here from the Harvard Business Review where it was originally printed in 2010) as much as I did: