Christensen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the second of eight children. He holds a B.A. with highest honors in economics from Brigham Young University (BYU) (1975), a M.Phil. in APPLIED econometrics and the economics of less-developed countries from Oxford University (1977, Rhodes Scholar), an MBA with high distinction from the HBS (1979, George F. Baker Scholar), and a DBA from the HBS (1992). While at Oxford, Christensen, who stands 6 feet 8 inches tall,was the STARTING center for the men's basketball team.
Before joining the faculty of Harvard Business School (HBS) in 1992, Christensen worked for the Boston Consulting Group and then served as chairman and president of Ceramics Process Systems Corporation (now CPS Holdings), a firm he co-founded with several MIT professors in 1984. In 2000, he founded Innosight LLC, a consulting and training firm which describes itself as "focusing on idea generation, strategy development, commercialization, and innovative process development." In 2005, together with his colleagues at Innosight, he launched Innosight Ventures, a venture firm focused on investing in India. In 2007, after incubating the processes for six years, Christensen co-founded Rose Park Advisors LLC (named after the neighborhood in Salt Lake City where he was raised), an INVESTMENT company which applies his research as an investment strategy.
He serves on the board of directors of Tata Consultancy SERVICES (NSE: TCS), Franklin Covey (NYSE: FC), and Vanu, Inc.
He worked as a consultant and project leader with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) (1979–1984) and was instrumental in founding the firm's manufacturing strategy consulting practice. He took a leave of absence from BCG to serve as a White House Fellow (1982–1983) as an assistant to U.S. Transportation Secretaries, Drew Lewis and Elizabeth Dole.
At HBS, he currently teaches an elective course he DESIGNED called "Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise", which teaches managers how to build and manage an enduring, successful company or transform an existing organization. Christensen RECEIVED an Extraordinary Teaching Award by the MBA class of 2010. He also teaches in many HBS executive education programs. Christensen was awarded a full professorship with tenure in 1998, and currently holds five honorary doctorates and an honorary chaired professorship at the National Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
Christensen is the best-selling author of five books, including his seminal work The Innovator's Dilemma (1997), which received the Global BUSINESSBOOK Award for the best business book of the year, The Innovator's Solution (2003), and Seeing What's Next (2004). Recently, Christensen has focused the lens of disruptive innovation on social issues such as education and health care. Disrupting Class (2008) looks at the root causes of why schools struggle and offers solutions, while The Innovator's Prescription (2009) examines how to fix the American healthcare system. The latter two books have received numerous awards as the best books on education and health care in their respective years of publication. The Innovator's Prescription was also awarded the 2010 James A. Hamilton Award, by the College of Healthcare Executives.