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. Everyday Work Life and Career Transitions

    by Teresa M. Amabile

    My current major research program is a broad study of people’s everyday experiences, including involvement in creative activity and intergenerational collaboration at work, and how those experiences impact their attitudes toward and adjustment to career transitions. Our main focus is on the transition to retirement and the extent to which individuals identify with their work or profession. The purpose is to discover how people think and feel about their work experiences across the lifespan, and what determines successful adjustment to retirement. Our data collection methods are primarily qualitative, including surveys, daily diaries, and extensive semi-structured interviews. Our plan is to include people from 2-3 companies in the study; we are currently collecting data in one company and will begin data collection in a second soon. We are sampling 15-20 people in four broad groups in each company: (a) employees in the first 5-10 years of their careers; (b) employees in the last 5-10 years of their careers; (c) employees with a planned retirement date in the coming 12 months (who will be interviewed several times as they approach and move through the retirement transition); and (d) retirees of those companies, who retired in the past 5-10 years. I expect data collection to continue through 2016 and possibly beyond. As an adjunct to the inductive qualitative study, I am collaborating on a series of experiments on intergenerational collaboration with doctoral student Hayley Blunden.

  2. The Subjective Experience of Work

    by Teresa M. Amabile

    In a related research stream, I study how individuals experience work day by day, what influences that subjective experience, and what the consequences are for performance. This builds on the work-diary research that culminated in my book, The Progress Principle. My current projects in this stream include: (a) The effect of daily self-reflection about work, and review of one’s past reflections, on emotions, perceptions, motivation, and behaviors. This series of online experiments is being done in collaboration with doctoral student Ting Zhang. (b) The experience of downtime (idle time) at work. A paper reporting this series of experiments, with doctoral student Andrew Brodsky, is currently under review for publication. (c) With doctoral student Mike Lee, I am collaborating on a series of studies to examine the antecedents and consequences of emotional equanimity at work -- the ability to focus and perform effectively even under emotionally intense circumstances. We have completed one experiment and are about to launch a second. 

  3. Helping and Learning at Work

    by Teresa M. Amabile

    I have two related sets of projects in this stream: (a) Collaboration and helping in creative project teams. Colin Fisher (BU), Julianna Pillemer (Wharton), and I conducted a multi-year study of successful and unsuccessful helping episodes inside a creative design firm. The paper reporting this study is currently under invited revision for Administrative Science Quarterly. In 2014, we published an HBR article on this topic. (b) With doctoral student Michele Rigolizzo, I have a forthcoming book chapter on entrepreneurship, creativity, and learning at work. We have completed one study in a European bank on the effect of recording day-by-day learnings at work on the propensity to notice additional learning opportunities, and we will soon launch a larger-scale field experiment on the topic. We have also completed an interview study of learning that results from a mini-sabbatical program for scientific/technical personnel in a major pharmaceutical firm.