Research Summary


by Amy C. Edmondson


My research focuses on understanding and improving processes through which organizations learn and innovate. I study the dynamics in work groups through which organizational learning occurs. Understanding how and under what conditions groups learn is an important part of explaining why some organizations learn so much better than others. In a series of field studies, I have investigated how teams learn and how their learning affects the organizations in which they work. Learning involves interpersonal risk--particularly in the workplace, where image and reputation are highly salient. My research has explored these issues in organizational contexts ranging from the cardiac surgery operating room, to the factory, to the executive suite. One current stream of my work is investigating collaboration across organizational boundaries in projects involving innovation in the built environment. Another stream of my research investigates senior management teams and the relationship between team process and the nature of the issue or decision the team faces. Lastly, I am also developing new case materials on dynamic forms of teaming in contemporary organizations. I am also studying innovation for sustainability in the built environment. Various innovations are occurring in the design and construction sector to improve economic, design, and sustainability outcomes. This sector had undergone relatively little innovation for decades even as other industries have transformed through combinations of new technologies, changing customer demand and laws and regulations. Buildings produce 30-40% of CO2 emissions and have broader sustainability implications as well, both environmental (such as use of water) and social (such as impact on the local communities and the productivity and quality of life of the people who work in them). This research is field-based, and examines some innovative approaches that are multidisciplinary in nature. One of the first studies we have done is on the iconic Water Cube building in Beijing, built for the Olympic swimming competition. A second was the Lake Nona Medical City in Florida.