Clayton M. Christensen, the author of such business classics as The Innovator’s Dilemma and the New York Times bestseller How Will You Measure Your Life, and co-authors Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon reveal why so many investments in economic development fail to generate sustainable prosperity, and offers a groundbreaking solution for true and lasting change.
Global poverty is one of the world’s most vexing problems. For decades, we’ve assumed smart, well-intentioned people will eventually be able to change the economic trajectory of poor countries. From education to healthcare, infrastructure to eradicating corruption, too many solutions rely on trial and error. Essentially, the plan is often to identify areas that need help, flood them with resources, and hope to see change over time.
But hope is not an effective strategy.
Clayton M. Christensen and his co-authors reveal a paradox at the heart of our approach to solving poverty. While noble, our current solutions are not producing consistent results, and in some cases, have exacerbated the problem. At least twenty countries that have received billions of dollars’ worth of aid are poorer now.
Applying the rigorous and theory-driven analysis he is known for, Christensen suggests a better way. The right kind of innovation not only builds companies—but also builds countries. The Prosperity Paradox identifies the limits of common economic development models, which tend to be top-down efforts, and offers a new framework for economic growth based on entrepreneurship and market-creating innovation. Christensen, Ojomo, and Dillon use successful examples from America’s own economic development, including Ford, Eastman Kodak, and Singer Sewing Machines, and shows how similar models have worked in other regions such as Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, Rwanda, India, Argentina, and Mexico.
The ideas in this book will help companies desperate for real, long-term growth see actual, sustainable progress where they’ve failed before. But The Prosperity Paradox is more than a business book; it is a call to action for anyone who wants a fresh take for making the world a better and more prosperous place.
About the Author
CLAYTON M. CHRISTENSEN (1952–2020) was the Kim B. Clark Professor at Harvard Business School, the author of nine books, a five-time recipient of the McKinsey Award for Harvard Business Review’s best article, and the cofounder of four companies, including the innovation consulting firm Innosight. In 2011 and 2013 he was named the world’s most influential business thinker in a biennial ranking conducted by Thinkers50.
Efosa Ojomo works side-by-side with Christensen and the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, where he leads the organization’s Global Prosperity Practice. His work has been published in the Harvard Business Review, the Guardian, Quartz, CNBCAfrica, and the Emerging Markets Business Review.
KAREN DILLON is the former editor of the Harvard Business Review and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller How Will You Measure Your Life? She is a graduate of Cornell University and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In 2011 she was named by Ashoka as one of the world’s most influential and inspiring women.
“The Prosperity Paradox has the power to transform our thinking about philanthropy and social good. As we continue to grapple with how to lift people out of poverty, Clay Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon provide a new and innovative solution for millions of people around the world. It’s a must-read for anyone with an interest in global affairs who wants to create a truly thriving society.”
— Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global
“The Prosperity Paradox will fundamentally change the conversation about the role of philanthropy in development. As Christensen, Ojomo, and Dillon capture perfectly, to tackle truly important problems, we need to reset our current thinking. Market-creating innovation needs to play a critical role in enabling a path out of poverty through market-driven solutions. Most foundations do not exercise the power they have to provide catalytic capital to engage in high risk ventures that may unlock sustainable replicable and scalable game changing solutions.”
— Irene Pritzker, President & Chief Executive Officer, IDP Foundation, Inc.
“Clayton Christensen’s latest book The Prosperity Paradox is a must-read. Powerful, persuasive, and wonderfully written, Christensen and his coauthors make a compelling case for the game-changing role of innovation in some of the world’s most desperate economies.”
— Eric Schmidt, Former Executive Chairman of Google and Alphabet
“The Prosperity Paradox is a manifesto and a call to action for those who recognize that our survival depends on creating opportunity. This book will help innovators be more compassionate. And the compassionate be more innovative.”
— Tom Fletcher, CMG, former UK Ambassador and author of The Naked Diplomat
“The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo, and Karen Dillon is a timely must-read on the mindset change that turns poverty into opportunity and enables the creation of sustainable prosperity. As World Bank Treasurer, I saw first-hand how the innovative approaches described in this compelling easy to read primer empowers development practitioners and businesses to seek out these profitable opportunities.”
— Arunma Oteh, former World Bank Treasurer
“The rise of any economy, local or global, must be fueled by innovative entrepreneurs willing to build new markets. With The Prosperity Paradox, Christensen, Ojomo, and Dillon offer powerful insight and guidance on how we can channel our efforts to create jobs, generate growth, and impact individual lives all over the world.”
— Steve Case, Chairman & CEO of Revolution and co-founder of AOL
“Prosperity Paradox is the most important business book since Peter Drucker. It will dramatically change all initiatives on development and well beyond – starting with venture capital and entrepreneurship. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about sustainable economic development.”
— Eduardo Braun, Leader of the Advisory Board, Buenos Aires Innovation Park and author of People First Leadership
“The Prosperity Paradox perfectly illustrates the need for investment and support for local innovators. Christensen, Ojomo and Dillon show how real entrepreneurs have created booming businesses in low- and middle-income countries, while generating economic growth. This book is necessary for any entrepreneur who wants to create positive and lasting change, and for any government official or investor who wants a better way to spur global development.”
— Matias Recchia, Co-Founder and CEO of IguanaFix
“I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Christensen, Ojomo, and Dillon deeply understand both the challenges and opportunities of innovating in unexpected places – and the satisfaction of creating a market that enables prosperity to thrive.”
— Richard Leftley, Chief Executive Officer of MicroEnsure