Robert I. Sutton

Robert I. Sutton
Professor (by courtesy), Organizational Behavior
Contact Info
Professor of Management Science and Engineering, School of Engineering
Academic Area: 
Organizational Behavior

Additional Administrative Titles

  • Co-Director, Customer-Focused Innovation
  • Co-Director, Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate

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 and a Professor of Organizational Behavior (by courtesy) at Stanford.  Sutton has been teaching classes on the psychology of business and management at Stanford since 1983. He is co-founder of the Center for Work, Technology and Organization, which he co-directed from 1996 to 2006.  He is also co-founder of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (which everyone calls “the d school”).

Sutton studies innovation, leadership, the links between managerial knowledge and organization action, scaling excellence, and workplace dynamics.  He has published over 100 articles and chapters on these topics in peer-reviewed journals and the popular press. Sutton’s books include Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Firms Turn Knowledge into Action (with Jeffrey Pfeffer), and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (with Jeffrey Pfeffer).  The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t  and Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…. and Survive the Worst are both New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers.  His latest book, Scaling-Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less (with Huggy Rao), was published in 2014.  It is a Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and was selected as one of the best business books of the year by Amazon, the Financial Times, Inc., The Globe and Mail, and Library Journal.

Professor Sutton’s honors include the award for the best paper published in the Academy of Management Journal in 1989, the Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching, selection by Business 2.0 as a leading “management guru” in 2002, and the award for the best article published in the Academy of Management Review in 2005. Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense was selected as the best business book of 2006 by the Toronto Globe and Mail.  In 2008, Sutton was named as one of 10 “B-School All-Stars” by BusinessWeek, which they described as “professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia.”  The American Management Association selected Sutton as one of the top 30 leaders who most influenced business in 2014 (ranked 10th on their list).”  The London Business School selected Sutton for the 2014 Sumantra Ghoshal Award “for rigour and relevance in the study of management.” Sutton is a Fellow at IDEO and academic director of three Stanford executive education programs: Leading for Strategic Execution, Customer-Focused Innovation, and the new online Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate.  

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

Robert I. Sutton. McKinsey Quarterly. December 2017, Issue 4, Pages 102-111.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I. Sutton. Harvard Business Review. January 2006.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I. Sutton. Harvard Business Review. May 1999, Pages 135-142.
James G. March, Robert I. Sutton. Organization Science. 1997, Vol. 8, Issue 6, Pages 697-706.
L. E. Ginzel, Roderick M. Kramer, Robert I. Sutton. Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol. 15. Greenwich: JAI Press, 1993, Pages 227-266.
Robert I. Sutton, Roderick M. Kramer. Organizations and Nation-States: New Perspectives on Conflict and Cooperation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990, Pages 221-245.


Robert I. Sutton Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
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.


Executive Education & Other Non-Degree Programs

Stanford Case Studies

The 100,000 Homes Campaign | L30
Sarah Soule, Huggy Rao, Robert Sutton, Davina Drabkin2016
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
Mozilla: Scaling Through a Community of Volunteers | HR35
David Hoyt, Hayagreeva Rao, Robert Sutton2009

In the Media

Daily KOS, May 17, 2016
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

April 19, 2018
Stanford GSB professors recommend their favorite books and articles related to the concept.
March 8, 2018
Why a Stanford-trained entrepreneur sees gold in all that red tape.
September 12, 2017
A professor shows how to recognize (and deal with) toxic people.
December 11, 2014
Explore 10 Stanford Business stories from 2014, including pieces on happiness and networking.
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.