Robert Sutton

TAGS: Employee Engagement, Innovation, Leadership

Bob Sutton
"The event was a wonderful success and I've heard a great deal of feedback about how many useful "nuggets" people walked away with... incredibly engaging with so many great stories and examples at his fingertips."

Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering and a Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford. He has been teaching classes on the psychology of business and management at Stanford since 1983. Sutton is a co-founder of a multi-disciplinary program the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. This program is known as “the Stanford” which teaches, practices, and spreads “design thinking.”



  • Scaling Excellence: The Role of the Leader

    Robert Sutton, along with colleague Hayagreeva Rao, spent six years working to uncover how the best leaders and organizations spread excellence: from people and places that have it, to those that don’t. Sutton shows how the fate of every organization depends on building or finding pockets of exemplary performance, and—more importantly—how to spread those splendid deeds from the few to the many. Scaling well requires more than just creating a big footprint in a small amount of time.

    He shares principles that can be applied to organizations of every size and stripe: including large and small nonprofits, government agencies, schools, universities, and hospitals. Sutton closes by emphasizing that successful scaling requires relentless attention: a concentrated effort throughout the entire organization. There is no quick and easy way to do it well. Indeed, the most successful leaders are so persistent that they seem to take the path of most—rather than least—resistance as they spread excellence from the few to the many.

  • Good Boss, Bad Boss

    Sutton weaves together the best psychological and management research with true stories to reveal the mindset and moves of the best bosses – which he bolsters by contrasting them with evidence on how the worst bosses think of themselves and treat their people. Sutton shows how bosses can master essentials including striking just the right balance between being too assertive and not assertive and doing dirty work like disciplining and firing employees in timely and humane ways.

  • Building an Innovative Workplace

    Combining ideas from HBR top book of the year Weird Ideas That Work, his experience as an IDEO fellow, academic research on innovation, and his experience in the new Stanford Institute of Design – where the focus is on teaching and coaching student teams that are doing real creative for real companies like Mozilla, Fidelity, WalMart, SAP, Timbuk2, Google, and others – Sutton talks about and leads workshops with organizations about the challenges of managing and doing creative work.

  • Design Thinking Workshops

    Stanford Professor Robert Sutton leads workshops that combine his vast knowledge of theory and research about innovation with a real-world, hands-on approach. He has conducted these design thinking workshops with groups including Arco gas stations, Tesla Motors, Del Monte Foods, the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore, and the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi.

    These workshops typically run three hours and are highly interactive, resulting in lessons about key elements of innovation and design thinking including leadership, group dynamics, human resource management and, especially, the fundamentals of the design process and hands on learning about how to apply it to a host of business problems. In addition, they work with clients to develop and deliver workshops that are customized to the client’s needs and interests. [LEARN MORE]

  • Full length available upon request.

    Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling For Less

    In Scaling Up Excellence, bestselling author Robert Sutton and Stanford colleague Huggy Rao tackle a challenge that determines every organization’s success: scaling up farther, faster, and more effectively as a program or an organization creates a larger footprint. Sutton and Rao have devoted much of the last decade to uncovering what it takes to build and uncover pockets of exemplary performance, to help spread them, and to keep recharging organizations with ever better work practices. Drawing on inside accounts and case studies and academic research from a wealth of industries – including start-ups, pharmaceuticals, airlines, retail, financial services, high-tech, education, non-profits, government, and healthcare -- Sutton and Rao identify the key scaling challenges that confront every organization. They tackle the difficult trade-offs that organizations must make between “Buddhism” versus “Catholicism” -- whether to encourage individualized approaches tailored to local needs or to replicate the same practices and customs as an organization or program expands. They reveal how the best leaders and teams develop, spread, and instill the right mindsets in their people -- rather than ruining or watering down the very things that have fueled successful growth in the past. They unpack the principles that help to cascade excellence throughout an organization, as well as show how to eliminate destructive beliefs and behaviors that will hold them back... MORE →

    Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best... and Learn From the Worstd

    If you are a boss who wants to do great work, what can you do about it? Good Boss, Bad Boss is devoted to answering that question. Stanford Professor Robert Sutton weaves together the best psychological and management research with compelling stories and cases to reveal the mindset and moves of the best (and worst) bosses. This book was inspired by the deluge of emails, research, phone calls, and conversations that Dr. Sutton experienced after publishing his blockbuster bestseller The No Asshole Rule. He realized that most of these stories and studies swirled around a central figure in every workplace: THE BOSS. Sutton discovered that most bosses – and their followers – wanted a lot more than just a jerk-free workplace. They aspired to become (or work for) an all-around great boss, with the skill and grit to inspire great work, commitment, and dignity among their charges ... MORE →

    The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

    This meticulously researched book, which grew from a much buzzed-about article in the Harvard Business Review, puts into plain language an undeniable fact: the modern workplace is beset with assholes. Sutton (Weird Ideas that Work), a professor of management science at Stanford University, argues that assholes—those who deliberately make co-workers feel bad about themselves and who focus their aggression on the less powerful—poison the work environment, decrease productivity, induce qualified employees to quit and therefore are detrimental to businesses, regardless of their individual effectiveness... MORE →


  • Book site: Scaling Up Excellence
  • Interview: Inc. Magazine
  • 12 Things Good Bosses Believe: HBR Blog
  • CNN Inteview Video
  • Lessons From Nightmare Bosses
  • New York Times: How Bad Apples Infect the Tree
  • Good Boss, Bad Boss in the Wall Street Journal
  • Bob's other books: Weird Ideas That Work and The Knowing-Doing Gap
  • @work_matters: Follow Bob on Twitter