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. The Subjective Experience of Work

    by Teresa M. Amabile

    I study how individuals experience work day by day, what influences that subjective experience, and what the consequences are for performance. This is my major research program, building 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 on emotions and motivation. This multi-week online study, which builds on pilot studies conducted in 2012 and 2013, is currently in data collection. (b) The experience of downtime (idle time) at work. This series of experiments, with doctoral student Andrew Brodsky, is currently underway. (c) Attitudes toward and adjustment to retirement. This is my newest research project, currently in the planning stages. I expect to use a combination of in-depth interviews and surveys of individuals in the years before and after retirement from formal employment. 

  2. 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 are writing a paper on our multi-year study of successful and unsuccessful helping episodes inside a creative design firm. We recently published an HBR article on this topic. (b) With doctoral student Michele Rigolizzo, I have written a book chapter on creativity and learning at work. We have completed one pilot 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 are planning a larger-scale field study on the topic. 

  3. Emotional Equanimity

    by Teresa M. Amabile

    With doctoral student Mike Lee, I am planning 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.