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'Good Boss, Bad Boss': Interview with Stanford Prof. Robert Sutton

Biography

Stanford Graduate School of Business
Professor of Organizational Behavior (by courtesy)

Research Statement

Robert Sutton focuses on evidence-based management, the links (and gaps) between managerial knowledge and organizational action, innovation, and organizational performance. His research style emphasizes the development of theory and recommendations for practice on the basis of direct observation of organizational life and interviews with executives, managers, engineers, and other organization members.

Bio

Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering and a Professor of Organizational Behavior (by courtesy) at Stanford.  Sutton has been teaching classes on the psychology of business and management at Stanford since 1983. He is co-founder of the Center for Work, Technology and Organization, which he co-directed from 1996 to 2006.  He is also co-founder of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (which everyone calls “the d school”).

Sutton studies innovation, leadership, the links between managerial knowledge and organization action, scaling excellence, and workplace dynamics.  He has published over 100 articles and chapters on these topics in peer-reviewed journals and the popular press. Sutton’s books include Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Firms Turn Knowledge into Action (with Jeffrey Pfeffer), and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (with Jeffrey Pfeffer).  The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t  and Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…. and Survive the Worst are both New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.  His latest book, Scaling-Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less (with Huggy Rao), was published in 2014.  It is a Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and was selected as one of the best business books of the year by Amazon, the Financial Times, Inc., The Globe and Mail, and Library Journal.

Professor Sutton’s honors include the award for the best paper published in the Academy of Management Journal in 1989, the Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching, selection by Business 2.0 as a leading “management guru” in 2002, and the award for the best article published in the Academy of Management Review in 2005. Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense was selected as the best business book of 2006 by the Toronto Globe and Mail.  In 2008, Sutton was named as one of 10 “B-School All-Stars” by BusinessWeek, which they described as “professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia.”  The American Management Association selected Sutton as one of the top 30 leaders who most influenced business in 2014 (ranked 10th on their list).”  The London Business School selected Sutton for the 2014 Sumantra Ghoshal Award “for rigour and relevance in the study of management.” Sutton is a Fellow at IDEO and academic director of three Stanford executive education programs: Leading for Strategic Execution, Customer-Focused Innovation, and the new online Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate.  

Academic Degrees

  • PhD, Univesity of Michigan, 1984
  • MA, University of Michigan, 1981
  • BA, University of California at Berkeley, 1977

Academic Appointments

  • At Stanford since 1983
  • Professor of Organizational Behavior, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, July 1997-June 1998
  • Professor, Stanford University, 1992-present
  • Associate Professor, Stanford University, 1989–1992
  • Assistant Professor, Stanford University, 1983–1989
  • Research Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, currently
  • Codirector, Center for Work, Technology, and Organizations, 1996–present
  • Associate Director of the Stanford Center for Organizations Research, 1988-1991

Teaching

Executive Education & Other Non-Degree Programs

  • Customer-Focused Innovation Learn about cutting-edge social science frameworks and design thinking techniques in a unique partnership between Stanford GSB and d.school.
  • Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate Discover new ways of thinking and acting so that you can solve your biggest business challenges.

In the Media

The Emperor Has No Clue

Stanford eCorner: FRICTION with Bob Sutton, August 8, 2018

Can’t Stand the Heat? Get Rid of the Friction

Stanford eCorner: FRICTION with Bob Sutton, August 1, 2018

Dear Micro-Manager, Control Yourself

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 25, 2018

Simple Rules Set You Free

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 18, 2018

Sweet Rejection: Cutting Out the Noise

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 11, 2018

Over, Under, Through: Fixing Government Friction

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 4, 2018

The Customers Made Us Scale It

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, June 27, 2018

Productive Paranoia: Lights, Camera…Anxiety!

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, June 20, 2018

Agile on the Edges: Managing Misfits

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, June 13, 2018

The Spreadsheet Troll: Tales of Silos and Scaling

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, June 6, 2018

Tenacious Compassion: Leading Through the Storm

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, May 30, 2018

Encourage Honest Feedback

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, March 9, 2018

Recalibrating Unbalanced Teams

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, March 9, 2018

How To Structure Teams For Efficiency and Morale

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, December 13, 2017

Velocity Is An Absolute

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, October 17, 2017

Five Ways to Reduce Workplace Friction

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, August 23, 2017

Bonus Episode: A Professor’s Radically Candid Closing Thoughts

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, August 16, 2017

Friction's Antidote: Radical Candor

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, August 16, 2017

People Who Push Too Hard: Lessons from Airline Employees, Prison Guards, and Workplace Vigilantes

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, August 9, 2017

The Virtues of Hierarchy, Structure, and Temporary Teams

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, August 2, 2017

The Curse of Petty Tyrants and Other Workplace A-holes

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 26, 2017

DIY Sabotage: Lick The Cookie

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 19, 2017

Constructive Chaos vs. Clusterf***s

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 12, 2017

The Basic Hygiene of Management

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, July 5, 2017

Don’t Sugar Coat Your Culture

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, June 28, 2017

Agile is a State of Being

Stanford eCorner: Friction with Bob Sutton, June 19, 2017

A New Use for "The No Asshole Rule"

Daily KOS, May 17, 2016

BE A BETTER DIRECTOR: How company leaders can drive growth

Business Insider Australia, March 30, 2015

In-House at the American Lawyer

American Lawyer, January 2007

Creativity Comes to B-School

Businessweek, April 27, 2006

Maxims in Need of a Makeover

US News & World Report, April 19, 2006

Bosses in Love with Claptrap and Blinded by Ideologies

The Guardian, April 11, 2006

Facing Facts

Bloomberg Businessweek, January 2006

No Jerks Allowed!

Fortune Small Business, June 1, 2005

Tight Times a Test for Rah-rah Frms

The Christian Science Monitor, October 8, 2003

2002 Harvard Business Review List: Break Through Ideas for Today's Business Agenda

Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2002

Look at It Another Way

Financial Times, March 26, 2002

Innovation Motivation: Unusual Approaches to Keeping the Creative

San Francisco Chronicle, February 20, 2002

Management Guru Trading Card

Business 2.0, January 2002

Stanford Business School Faculty Member Has Weird Ideas That Work

Business Wire, January 2002

To Find a Few Ideas That Work, You Need to Try a Lot That Don't

San Jose Mercury News, January 2002

Weird Is the Word

The Times, January 2002

Fresh Start 2002: Weird Ideas That Work

Fast Company, 12 31, 2001

Weblining: The Panic Over Hiring

Bloomberg Businessweek, May 3, 2000

Insights by Stanford Business

writtenHow Do You Define “Culture”?

April 19, 2018

Stanford GSB professors recommend their favorite books and articles related to the concept.

writtenNavigating the Shifting Seas of Global Government Oversight

March 8, 2018

Why a Stanford-trained entrepreneur sees gold in all that red tape.

writtenWork With a Jerk? Here’s How To Survive

September 12, 2017

A professor shows how to recognize (and deal with) toxic people.

writtenA Look Back at 2014

December 11, 2014

Explore 10 Stanford Business stories from 2014, including pieces on happiness and networking.

writtenA Look Back at 2014

December 11, 2014

Explore 10 Stanford Business stories from 2014, including pieces on happiness and networking.

writtenHayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton: How Do You Scale Excellence?

January 7, 2014

Two Stanford professors discuss their new book, Scaling Up Excellence, which reveals how the best leaders and teams create a growth mindset.

writtenRobert Sutton: How to Promote, Manage, and Sustain Innovation

October 15, 2001

In his new book, a scholar offers "weird" ideas for managers to boost creativity and performance, each backed by research and real-world success.

writtenThe Knowing-Doing Gap

November 1, 1999

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton explore how companies can turn talk into action, and why promoting internal competition may not help.

Read about executive education

Cases

The 100,000 Homes Campaign | L30 Sarah Soule, Huggy Rao, Robert Sutton, Davina Drabkin2016

Adobe: Building Momentum by Abandoning Annual Performance Reviews for “Check-Ins” | HR38 Rebecca Hinds, Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao2014

BuildDirect: Constructing a Culture That Can Weather the Storms | E526 Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao, Rebecca Hinds2014

The Rapid Equipping Force Customer Focused Innovation in the U.S. Army | L20 Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, David Hoyt2013

JetBlue Airways, A New Beginning | L17 David Hoyt, Charles O'Reilly III, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2010

Mozilla: Scaling Through a Community of Volunteers | HR35 David Hoyt, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2009

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: Changing the Mindsets and Behaviors of 17,000 People... One Person at a Time | L15 Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, Isaac Waisberg2009

The 100,000 Homes Campaign | L30 Sarah Soule, Huggy Rao, Robert Sutton, Davina Drabkin2016

Adobe: Building Momentum by Abandoning Annual Performance Reviews for “Check-Ins” | HR38 Rebecca Hinds, Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao2014

BuildDirect: Constructing a Culture That Can Weather the Storms | E526 Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao, Rebecca Hinds2014

The Rapid Equipping Force Customer Focused Innovation in the U.S. Army | L20 Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, David Hoyt2013

JetBlue Airways, A New Beginning | L17 David Hoyt, Charles O'Reilly III, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2010

Mozilla: Scaling Through a Community of Volunteers | HR35 David Hoyt, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2009

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: Changing the Mindsets and Behaviors of 17,000 People... One Person at a Time | L15 Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, Isaac Waisberg2009

The 100,000 Homes Campaign | L30 Sarah Soule, Huggy Rao, Robert Sutton, Davina Drabkin2016

Adobe: Building Momentum by Abandoning Annual Performance Reviews for “Check-Ins” | HR38 Rebecca Hinds, Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao2014

BuildDirect: Constructing a Culture That Can Weather the Storms | E526 Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao, Rebecca Hinds2014

The Rapid Equipping Force Customer Focused Innovation in the U.S. Army | L20 Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, David Hoyt2013

JetBlue Airways, A New Beginning | L17 David Hoyt, Charles O'Reilly III, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2010

Mozilla: Scaling Through a Community of Volunteers | HR35 David Hoyt, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2009

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: Changing the Mindsets and Behaviors of 17,000 People... One Person at a Time | L15 Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, Isaac Waisberg2009

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