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 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
The Psychology of Everyday Work Life
This multi-year research program has identified specific daily events in organizations that influence the perceptions, emotions, motivation, and, ultimately, performance of individuals and teams expected to produce creative outcomes. The longitudinal data collection tracked a number of projects in which creativity was both possible and desirable. Project teams involved in the development of new products, services, or business initiatives were drawn from companies in the chemicals, high-technology, and consumer products industries. Data collection involved daily event-reporting by team members; daily self-ratings of their perceptions, emotions, and motivation; longer periodic motivation and work environment questionnaires; interviews; and independent assessments of creativity and other performance outcomes. All potentially relevant events--including individual work progress, intrateam interactions, project supervision, higher-level management behavior, interaction between teams and other organizational units, and extraorganizational events--were examined to identify specific events and contexts that foster or inhibit positive psychological experiences at work and the timely production of innovative outcomes. The research program's findings have been reported in both management publications and scholarly journals, and provide the basis for a number of teaching cases on entrepreneurial behavior within organizations. A book for business practitioners, The Progress Principle, summarizes the findings to date and their practical application.
Collaboration and Helping in Creative Project Teams
This program of research investigates the interpersonal and psychological processes by which teams get better at creating new things, with a focus on helping. The research examines how people working in teams recognize when they need help, seek it, and use it – as well as how people outside the teams recognize that the teams need help, offer it, and give it effectively. We study initiation, type, and timing of help, with the aim of discovering how and when it can be given and used to most benefit creative productivity in teams.
Impact of Daily Self-Reflection on Engagement and Performance
Two current projects (both early stage): (a) Building on an informative pilot field experiment in April 2012, we are launching a larger-scale experiment examining the effect of daily reflection about progress and setbacks of the day, at the end of one’s work day, on perceptions, emotions, motivation, and performance. (b) In collaboration with doctoral student Michele Rigolizzo, I am planning a field experiment to examine the effect of reflection about learning opportunities at work on identifying and taking advantage of such opportunities.
Idle Time At Work
In collaboration with doctoral student Andrew Brodsky, I have carried out a series of lab experiments on the consequences and management of idle time at work. A working paper is in progress.