Schumpeter and Christensen vs Porter

What is actually the big difference between caring about an old scholar like Schumpeter, his recent follower Clayton Christensen, and the old management-guru Michael Porter? Here is the answer.

It is somewhat difficult to tell what academics in general care about and do not care about. They are like all people: different. Still, it seems, at least to me, that the academic interest of Schumpeter, today, roughly speaking follow two (and fairly different) streams of interest.

One stream is to be found among academics in the field of Economics. In some countries it would be called “Micro-Economics”, interested in for instance the circumstances that industry work in. The thing is: Schumpeter had many different interests, even far outside “creative destruction” and there is were we tend to find these kind of academics in the field of Economics being interested in him today (there is also were to position for instance the “Schumpeter society“). However, they do not seem to be that keen on taking on specific management challenges.

The other stream is more occupied by academics working in fields of “innovation and entrepreneurship”, and that is an area closer to “management of single companies”. There, on the other hand, the theories that Schumpeter developed seem to be one “out of many”. Having that said: yes, there are far more theories that could have mentioned (and used) in my book Stop Nobody Move than is done.

Then, of course, you can find the disciples of Clayton Christensen, for instance here at the institute/think tank that he founded. It´s full of people that utilize the basic idea from Schumpeter about Creative Destruction and how, in reality, new solutions evolve at the same time as old solutions die out.

And then we have a scholar like Michael Porter, that became very important to industry during the late 1980s.

What is worth noting is though: Porter is an “Economist” and most economist have a tendency of observing industry “as if” it was more or less a “balance act”. They are normally not that interested in how change tend to appear, but interested in the two different states: before change and after change.

The five forces that Porter ones developed is a good case, that I also use in the book Stop Nobody Move in order to show the point in trying to see an industry-play as a dynamic, instead of a static, act.

Considering the times we live in today, where industry after industry change due to digital powers, there is no coincidence that Porter is not the same kind of guru that he ones was, and that theories related to Christensen instead have increased in interest.

Theories about Disruption is dynamic and interested in “how” industries change, not that heavily interested in how an existing industrial structure looks like. And that is why it is useful to care about them, today.