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Robert I. Sutton

Robert I. Sutton
Professor (by courtesy), Organizational Behavior
Professor of Organizational Behavior (by courtesy)
Professor of Management Science and Engineering, School of Engineering
Codirector of the Customer-Focused Innovation Executive Program
Academic Area: 
Organizational Behavior

Research Statement

Robert Sutton focuses on evidence-based management, the links (and gaps) between managerial knowledge and organizational action, innovation, and organizational performance. His research style emphasizes the development of theory and recommendations for practice on the basis of direct observation of organizational life and interviews with executives, managers, engineers, and other organization members.


Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, where he is Codirector of the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization, an active researcher and cofounder in the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and a cofounder and active member of the new “,” a multi-disciplinary program that teaches and spreads “design thinking.” He is also an IDEO Fellow and a Professor of Organizational Behavior, by courtesy, at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Sutton received his PhD in Organizational Psychology from The University of Michigan and has served on the Stanford faculty since 1983. He also taught at the Haas Business School and was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during the 1986-87, 1994-95, and 2002-03 academic years. He has served on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly publications, and as an editor for the Administrative Science Quarterly and Research in Organizational Behavior. His honors include the award for the best paper published in the Academy of Management Journal in 1989, the best paper published in the Academy of Management Review in 2005, induction into the Academy of Management Journal’s Hall of Fame, the Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching, the McGraw-Hill Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award, the McCullough Faculty Scholar Chair from Stanford, and selection by Business 2.0 as a leading “management guru” in 2002.

Sutton studies the links between managerial knowledge and organizational action, evidence-based management, and innovation, and organizational performance. He has published over 100 articles and chapters in scholarly and applied publications. He has also published 8 books and edited volumes. He (and Jeffrey Pfeffer) wrote The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Firms Turn Knowledge Into Action (Harvard Business School Press, 2000), which was selected as Best Management Book of 2000 by Management General. His most recent book is Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation (The Free Press, 2002), which was selected by the Harvard Business Review as one of the 10 best business books of the year and as a breakthrough business idea. He (and Jeffrey Pfeffer) just published Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (Harvard Business School Press, 2006). His next book will be The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, to be published by Warner in early 2007.

Sutton’s research and opinions are often described in the press, including the New York Times, The Times (of London) , BusinessWeek, Financial Times, Fortune, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Business 2.0, Wired, Strategy & Leadership, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Jose Mercury. He has also been columnist for CIO Insight and a guest on numerous radio and television shows, including Bloomberg, BBC, PBS, NPR, Tech Nation, and CNN. Sutton’s blog is Work Matters and can be found at He and Jeffrey Pfeffer maintain a website that provides information and a place for people to exchange ideas about evidence-based management at

Academic Degrees

  • PhD, Univesity of Michigan, 1984
  • MA, University of Michigan, 1981
  • BA, University of California at Berkeley, 1977

Academic Appointments

  • At Stanford since 1983
  • Professor of Organizational Behavior, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, July 1997-June 1998
  • Professor, Stanford University, 1992-present
  • Associate Professor, Stanford University, 1989–1992
  • Assistant Professor, Stanford University, 1983–1989
  • Research Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, currently
  • Codirector, Center for Work, Technology, and Organizations, 1996–present
  • Associate Director of the Stanford Center for Organizations Research, 1988-1991


Journal Articles

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I. Sutton. Harvard Business Review. 2006.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I. Sutton. Harvard Business Review. May 1999, Pages 135-142.
Robert I. Sutton, Thomas A. Kelley. California Management Review. 1997, Vol. 40, Issue 1, Pages 75-91.
James G. March, Robert I. Sutton. Organization Science. 1997, Vol. 8, Issue 6, Pages 697-706.
Andrew Hargadon, Robert I. Sutton. Administrative Science Quarterly. 1997, Vol. 42, Issue 4, Pages 716-749.
Robert I. Sutton. Organization Science. 1997, Vol. 8, Issue 1, Pages 97-106.
Robert I. Sutton, Andrew Hargadon. Administrative Science Quarterly. 1996, Vol. 41, Issue 4, Pages 685-718.
Robert I. Sutton, Barry M. Staw. Administrative Science Quarterly. 1995, Vol. 40, Issue 3, Pages 371-384.
Richard T. Mowday, Robert I. Sutton. Annual Review of Psychology. 1993, Vol. 44, Pages 195-229.
L. E. Ginzel, Roderick Moreland Kramer, Robert I. Sutton. Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol. 15. Greenwich: JAI Press, 1993, Pages 227-266.
Kimberly D. Elsbach, Robert I. Sutton. Academy of Management Journal. 1992, Vol. 35, Pages 699-738.
Robert I. Sutton. Journal of Management Inquiry. 1992, Vol. 1, Issue 4, Pages 278-287.
Robert I. Sutton. Academy of Management Journal. 1991, Vol. 34, Issue 4 , Pages 749-775.
Robert I. Sutton. Administrative Science Quarterly. 1991, Vol. 36, Issue 2, Pages 245-268.
Robert I. Sutton, Roderick Moreland Kramer. Organizations and Nation-States: New Perspectives on Conflict and Cooperation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990, Pages 221-245.
Robert I. Sutton, Thomas D'Aunno.... Academy of Management Review. 1, 1989, Vol. 14, Issue 2, Pages 194-212.
Robert I. Sutton, Anat Rafaeli. Academy of Management Journal. 1988, Vol. 31, Issue 3, Pages 461-487.
Robert I. Sutton. Administrative Science Quarterly. 1987, Vol. 32, Issue 4, Pages 542-569.
Robert I. Sutton, Anita L. Callahan. Academy of Management Journal. 1987, Vol. 30, Issue 3, Pages 405-436.
Robert I. Sutton, Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, James V. Jucker. Organizational Dynamics. 1986, Vol. 14, Issue 4, Pages 17-29.


Robert I. Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao Crown Business, 2014.
Robert I. Sutton New York, N.Y.: Business Plus, 2010.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I. Sutton Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press, 2006.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I. Sutton Boston: Harvard Business School Press, December 3, 1999.

Book Chapters

Robert I. Sutton, D. Charles Galunic. Research in Organizational Behavior. JAI Press, January 1996, Vol. 18, Pages 201-250.
Robert I. Sutton. Social Psychology in Organizations: Advances in Theory and Research. Prentice Hall, 1992, Pages 350-384.
Robert I. Sutton. Research in Organizational Behavior. JAI Press, 1990, Vol. 12, Pages 205-253.
Anat Rafaeli, Robert I. Sutton. Research in Organizational Behavior. 1989, Vol. 11, Pages 1-43.
Robert I. Sutton. Handbook of Organizational Behavior. Prentice Hall, 1987, Pages 272-285.

Stanford Case Studies

Adobe: Building Momentum by Abandoning Annual Performance Reviews for “Check-Ins” | HR38
Rebecca Hinds, Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao2014
BuildDirect: Constructing a Culture That Can Weather the Storms | E526
Robert Sutton, Hayagreeva Rao, Rebecca Hinds2014
The Rapid Equipping Force Customer Focused Innovation in the U.S. Army | L20
Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton, David Hoyt2013
JetBlue Airways, A New Beginning | L17
David Hoyt, Charles O'Reilly III, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2010

In the Media

Business Insider Australia, March 30, 2015
In-House at the American Lawyer
American Lawyer, January 2007
Businessweek, April 27, 2006
Maxims in Need of a Makeover
US News & World Report, April 19, 2006
Facing Facts
Bloomberg Businessweek, January 2006
Fortune Small Business, June 1, 2005
The Christian Science Monitor, October 8, 2003
Financial Times, March 26, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle, February 20, 2002
Management Guru Trading Card
Business 2.0, January 2002
Stanford Business School Faculty Member Has Weird Ideas That Work
Business Wire, January 2002
To Find a Few Ideas That Work, You Need to Try a Lot That Don't
San Jose Mercury News, January 2002
Weird Is the Word
The Times, January 2002
Fast Company, 12 31, 2001
Bloomberg Businessweek, May 3, 2000

Insights by Stanford Business

December 11, 2014
Explore 10 Stanford Business stories from 2014, including pieces on happiness and networking.
January 7, 2014
Two Stanford professors discuss their new book, Scaling Up Excellence, which reveals how the best leaders and teams create a growth mindset.
October 15, 2001
In his new book, a scholar offers "weird" ideas for managers to boost creativity and performance, each backed by research and real-world success.
November 1, 1999
Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton explore how companies can turn talk into action, and why promoting internal competition may not help.