Clayton M. Christensen, who has been called “The Number One Management Thinker in the World”
In a brilliant address titled “How Will You Measure Your Life: Don’t Reserve Your Best Business Thinking for Your Career,” Clayton M. Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, advised his students how to apply his principles and thinking to their post-graduate careers. Here is an excerpt from that speech, which speaks to the heart of integrity.
Unconsciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine [a business theory that is unimportant to go into here] in our personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK.” The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”
I’d like to share a story about how I came to understand the potential damage of “just this once” in my own life. I played on the Oxford University varsity basketball team. We worked our tails off and finished the season undefeated. The guys on the team were the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. We got to the British equivalent of the NCAA tournament— and made it to the final four. It turned out the championship game was scheduled to be (more…)