Teresa M. Amabile

Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration
Director of Research

Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School. She is also a Director of Research at the School. Originally educated and employed as a chemist, Dr. Amabile received her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1977. Her research investigates how life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Originally focusing on individual creativity, Dr. Amabile's research expanded to encompass individual productivity, team creativity, and organizational innovation. This 35-year program of research on how the work environment can influence creativity and motivation yielded a theory of creativity and innovation; methods for assessing creativity, motivation, and the work environment; and a set of prescriptions for maintaining and stimulating innovation. Dr. Amabile's current research program focuses on the psychology of everyday work life: how events in the work environment influence subjective experience ("inner work life") and performance (creativity, productivity, and commitment to the work).

Before joining HBS, Dr. Amabile held several research grants as a professor at Brandeis University, including "Creativity and Motivation," from the National Institute of Mental Health, and "Downsizing Industrial R&D," from the Center for Innovation Management Studies. She was awarded the E. Paul Torrance Award by the Creativity Division of the National Association for Gifted Children in 1998, and the Leadership Quarterly Best Paper Award by the Center for Creative Leadership in 2005. In 2011 and again in 2013, she was named to the international Thinkers50 list.

Dr. Amabile has presented her theories, research results, and practical implications to various groups in business, government, and education, including IDEO, Johnson & Johnson, Grunenthal Pharma, and the Society for Human Resource Management. In addition to participating in various executive programs at Harvard Business School, she created the MBA course, Managing for Creativity, and currently teaches the the new FIELD course to first-year MBA students. Dr. Amabile was the host/instructor of Against All Odds: Inside Statistics, a 26-part instructional series originally produced for broadcast on PBS. She is a director of Seaman Corporation and a trustee of Canisius College, and has served on the boards of other organizations.

Dr. Amabile is the author of The Progress PrincipleCreativity in Context, and Growing Up Creative, as well as over 150 scholarly papers, chapters, case studies, and presentations. She serves on the editorial boards of Creativity Research Journal, Creativity and Innovation Management, and Journal of Creative Behavior. Her papers include: Creativity (Annual Review of Psychology), Assessing the Work Environment for Creativity (Academy of Management Journal); Changes in the Work Environment for Creativity during Downsizing (Academy of Management Journal); Leader Behaviors and the Work Environment for Creativity: Perceived Leader Support (Leadership Quarterly); and Affect and Creativity at Work (Administrative Science Quarterly). She has also published several articles in Harvard Business Review.

Personal Website: www.teresaamabile.com

  1. TED x Atlanta

    Teresa Amabile draws from her new book The Progress Principle to explain how companies can overcome the "crisis of disengagement" occurring in the workplace.

  2. The Progress Principle

    By  Teresa M. Amabile, and Steven J. Kramer.

    Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.

    The most effective managers have the ability to build a cadre of employees who have great inner work lives-consistently positive emotions; strong motivation; and favorable perceptions of the organization, their work, and their colleagues. The worst managers undermine inner work life, often unwittingly. As Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer explain in The Progress Principle, seemingly mundane workday events can make or break employees' inner work lives. But it's forward momentum in meaningful work-progress-that creates the best inner work lives. Through rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in seven companies, the authors explain how managers can foster progress and enhance inner work life every day. The book shows how to remove obstacles to progress, including meaningless tasks and toxic relationships. It also explains how to activate two forces that enable progress: 1) catalysts-events that directly facilitate project work, such as clear goals and autonomy and 2) nourishers-interpersonal events that uplift workers, including encouragement and demonstrations of respect and collegiality. Filled with stories from the companies studied, The Progress Principle equips aspiring and seasoned leaders alike with the insights they need to maximize their people's performance.

  3. IDEO's Culture of Helping

    In the highest-performing companies, it is a norm that colleagues support one another’s efforts to do the best work they can. After spending two years observing, interviewing people, and conducting surveys at one office of IDEO, the authors discovered four keys to building a help-friendly organization that leaders of other organizations could learn and apply to similar effect.
  4. Do Happier People Work Harder?

    In this New York Times opinion piece, Teresa Amabile and coauthor Steven Kramer outline actions that business leaders can take to reignite passion for work and revitalize creative productivity even in tough economic times.