Teresa Amabile
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Teresa Amabile
Key Topics:
  • Creativity
  • Productivity
  • Psychology of Everyday Work Life
  • Innovation
  • Motivation
  • Leadership
  • Employee Engagement
  • Bio Info:

    Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School. Originally educated as a chemist, Teresa received her doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. She studies how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Teresa’s research encompasses creativity, productivity, innovation, and inner work life – the confluence of emotions, perceptions, and motivation that people experience as they react to events at work.


    Teresa’s most recent discoveries appear in her book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. The book, based on research into nearly 12,000 daily diary entries from over 200 professionals inside organizations, illuminates how everyday events at work can impact employee engagement and creative productivity. Published in August 2011 by Harvard Business Review Press, the book is co-authored with Teresa’s husband and collaborator, Steven Kramer, Ph.D. Her other books include Creativity in Context and Growing Up Creative. Teresa has published over 100 scholarly articles and chapters, in outlets including top journals in psychology (such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and American Psychologist) and in management (Administrative Science QuarterlyAcademy of Management Journal). She is also the author of The Work Preference Inventory and KEYS to Creativity and Innovation. Teresa has used insights from her research in working with various groups in business, government, and education, including Procter & Gamble, Novartis International AG, Motorola, IDEO, and the Creative Education Foundation. She has presented her theories, research results, and practical implications in dozens of forums, including the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Young Presidents’ Organization annual university, and the Front End of Innovation annual conference.


    As an educator, Teresa strives to teach leaders and aspiring leaders ways in which they can simultaneously achieve their most passionate career aspirations, further the success of their organizations and employees, and serve the higher aims of the societies in which they work. At Harvard Business School, Teresa has taught MBA and executive courses on managing for creativity, leadership, and ethics. Previously, at Brandeis University, she taught social psychology, organizational psychology, the psychology of creativity, and statistics. She served as the host-instructor of the 26-part series, Against All Odds: Inside Statistics, originally broadcast on PBS.



    Teresa gives talks and workshops on many topics under “The Progress Principle” umbrella. Occasionally, her coauthor, Steven Kramer, joins her in workshops. Here is a sample of topics, but Teresa enjoys customizing her sessions to the needs and interests of the audience: 


    THE PROGRESS PRINCIPLE: How to Boost Engagement and Creative Productivity 
    What really makes people happy, motivated, productive, and creative at work? In Teresa Amabile's latest research, she's discovered the answer. It’s “The Progress Principle,” and it reveals the single most important thing that managers can do to engage their employees. Analyzing nearly 12,000 daily diaries from over 200 knowledge workers, Amabile discovered eleven specific actions that managers can take to catalyze progress and nourish employees’ motivation. Through lectures, workshops, and interactive discussions on this topic, you will learn how to leverage “The Progress Principle” to achieve the dual goals of supporting employee well-being and igniting creative productivity. 

    How Leaders Make or Break the Work Environment for Innovation 
    According to common wisdom, innovation depends solely on the creative talents of the smartest people inside an organization. But common wisdom is wrong. Building on 35 years of research and work with some of the world’s most innovative companies, Teresa Amabile shows how talent and intelligence are only the raw materials that the best leaders shape into powerhouses of innovation. In talks and workshops on this topic, Amabile uses research and stories from diverse organizations to show how leaders at all levels can build the three components of individual creativity and the three components of organizational innovation. Through these insights, you will gain new leverage on the most important assets in contemporary businesses. 

    The Power of Small Wins
    By collecting and analyzing nearly 12,000 daily diary entries from dozens of workers across companies and industries, Teresa Amabile discovered that 28% of seemingly minor events at work have a major impact on people’s emotions, perceptions, and motivation. The most important of these is the “small win”–incremental progress toward a meaningful goal. Of all the things that can maintain knowledge workers’ engagement and continually boost their performance, the single most powerful is making at least one step forward on meaningful work every day. The key for managers and for employees is developing the daily discipline to reflect on the day’s progress, setbacks, work catalysts, and work inhibitors, targeting one action for the following day. In this talk, you'll learn how to identify small wins, how to support and capitalize on them, and–ultimately–how to increase the probability that they will lead to innovative success.

    Workplace Confidential: Revelations from Work Diaries
    The popular television comedy The Office (BBC, NBC) shows workers revealing their innermost thoughts, feelings, and drives to an unseen, ever-present “other.” Through extensive research, Teresa Amabile has tapped into nearly 12,000 such revelations. Over 200 volunteers working on creative projects in 26 teams in 7 companies in 3 industries filled out electronic daily diary forms about their inner work lives and events unfolding at work–every day, over the entire course of their projects. The diary stories reveal the hidden perceptions, emotions, and motivations that people experience as they react to and make sense of the events in their workdays. In this presentation, you'll learn from a detailed analyses of these diaries; find out what really happens at work – from the perspective of people in the trenches; and explore the implications for people, their performance, and their organizations.


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  • THE PROGRESS PRINCIPLE: How to Boost Engagement and Creative Productivity
  • How Leaders Make or Break the Work Environment for Innovation
  • The Power of Small Wins
  • Workplace Confidential: Revelations from Work Diaries
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