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. 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, creativity, and career transitions.
Dr. Amabile's work has earned awards from the Center for Creative Leadership and the National Association for Gifted Children. In 2011, 2013, and 2015, she was named to the international Thinkers50 list. She has presented her theories, research results, and practical implications to various groups in business, government, and education, including Apple, IDEO, Procter & Gamble, Roche Pharma, Genentech, TEDx Atlanta, 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 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 Principle, Creativity 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
Everyday Work Life and Career Transitions
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. We are currently collecting data from current and retired employees in three companies, in four broad groups: (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 are being 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. Our research team endeavors to contribute new insights that will be valuable to scholars, organizational leaders, and individual employees as they move through and past their careers. The research team includes Lotte Bailyn (MIT Sloan), Kathy Kram and Tim Hall (BU School of Management), Marcy Crary (Bentley University), Hayley Blunden (Harvard Business School doctoral student), and Jeffrey Steiner (Harvard Business School research associate).
The Subjective Experience of Work
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 Dr. Ting Zhang. (b) The experience of downtime (idle time) at work and its performance consequences. A paper reporting this series of experiments, with doctoral student Andrew Brodsky, is currently under review for publication.
Helping and Learning at Work
This research focuses on collaboration and helping in creative project teams. Colin Fisher (UCL), 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 revision for journal publication. In 2014, we published a Harvard Business Review article on this topic.