So you like what you've heard about "disruptive innovation," and now you'd like a little one-on-one counseling from Clayton Christensen on how to implement these ideas? Well, get in line. Since his work began attracting attention in the late 1990s, Christensen's phone has been ringing nonstop. "There are so many people who contact us who would like help with their company," he says earnestly. "My biggest concern is that I can't respond to all of them."
But like any good B-school denizen, he can recognize a good business opportunity where demand outpaces supply. So in 2000 he hired a handful of Harvard M.B.A.s to create Innosight, a consulting firm whose mission is to spread his teachings. Though Innosight is still tiny--three partners, a skeleton staff and some contract consultants--last month construction workers were finishing its new offices a few miles from Harvard's campus.
Christensen's missionaries have no desire to compete with McKinsey--at least not yet. Right now they're limiting their work to short "engagements" focused on two areas. For companies that think they have a disruptive product to launch, Innosight will study the market, shape the business model and determine whether it's a smart play. That kind of project might last four months, with billings of under $450,000, a relative bargain by consulting standards. As managing director Matt Eyring describes it, the work sounds a bit like how a meteorologist interprets murky cloud formations. "We have pattern-recognition skills," Eyring says. "We know what to look for in these situations."
For companies that just want to spread Christensen's way of thinking through their work force, Innosight offers two-day workshops in which its consultants teach case studies and guide employees through strategy exercises. Cost: $40,000. Clients like Dow Corning say it's well worth it. "We actually make the people who come think through these concepts and create disruptive ideas right in the workshop," says Scott Fuson, Dow Corning's chief marketing officer.
One of Christensen's teachings is that start-ups should focus on profits first and growth second, in contrast with dot-com-era wisdom. Innosight is trying to live by that dictum by choosing clients carefully and trying to build a track record of companies clearly benefiting from its advice. Someday the firm may pose competition to bigger ones--including Deloitte Consulting, home to Michael Raynor, coauthor of "The Innovator's Solution." But that remains a long way off. "It's a big world," says Raynor. "At this stage of the game there's certainly enough work to keep everyone far busier than they can handle."