Robert I. Sutton

Professor of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University

Robert I. Sutton

Robert I. Sutton

Professor of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University


Stanford Graduate School of Business
Robert I Sutton

Professor of Organizational Behavior (by courtesy)
Professor of Management Science and Engineering, School of Engineering

Codirector of the Customer-Focused Innovation Executive Program

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

BA, Univ. of California, Berkeley, 1977; MA, Univ. of Michigan, 1981, PhD, 1984.

Professional Experience

At Stanford since 1983

Research Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Program.; Codirector, Center for Work, Technology, and Organizations, 1996-. Associate Director of the Stanford Center for Organizations Research, 1988-91. Prof. of Organizational Behavior, Haas School of Business, Univ. of Calif., Berkeley, July 1997-June 1998. Asst. Prof., Stanford Univ., 1983–89, Assoc. Prof., 1989–92, Prof., 1992—. McGraw-Hill Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award, 1998. McCullough Faculty Scholar Chair, 1992; Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1990; Award for the best paper published in the Academy of Management Journal. Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 1986–87 and 1994–95.

Selected Publications

Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management: Harvard Business School Press, 2005
Evidence-Based Management: Harvard Business Review, 2005
Weird Ideas That Work: 11 and 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation: The Free Press, 2002
The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action: Harvard Business School Press, 1999
The Smart Talk Trap: Harvard Business Review; 135-142, May-June, 1999
(Show more..)

Working Papers

1173: Organizational Images as Negotiated Accounts: A Dynamic Conception of Impression Management
1612: Technologies of Status Negotiation: Status Dynamics in Email Discussion Groups

Selected Cases

L15: Wyeth Pharmaceuticals: Changing the Mindsets and Behaviors of 17,000 People... One Person at a Time
HR35: Mozilla: Scaling Through a Community of Volunteers
L17: JetBlue Airways: A New Beginning

Courses Taught

OB 343: Scaling Change


Co-Founder: Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford
Codirector: Center for Work, Technology, and Organization
Research Director: Stanford Technology Ventures Program
Editorial Board: Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Executive, Administrative Science Quarterly, California Management Review,

In The Media

To Find a Few Ideas That Work, You Need to Try a Lot That Don't, San Jose Mercury News
Weblining: The Panic Over Hiring, BusinessWeek Online
2002 Harvard Business Review List, Harvard Business Review
Weird Is the Word, The Times
Stanford Business School Faculty Member Has Weird Ideas That Work, Business Wire

RelSci Relationships


Number of Boards


Number of Awards


RelSci Relationships are individuals Robert I. Sutton likely has professional access to. A relationship does not necessarily indicate a personal connection.

President & Chief Executive Officer at Business for Social Responsibility, Inc.

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Distinguished Fellow at Institute for the Future

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Research Director at Institute for the Future

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Senior Managing Director at Brock Capital Group LLC

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President & Founding Director at Kids Sports Stars Foundation

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President, Chief Executive Officer & Director at California Healthcare Foundation

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Advisor at Advanced-HR

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Visiting Scholar at University of California - San Diego - School of Global Policy and Strategy

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Director at Public Radio International, Inc.

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Co-Founder at Common Sense Media, Inc.

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Paths to Robert I. Sutton
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Robert I. Sutton
Professor of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University
Class of 1977

University of California Berkeley National rankings: In a National Research Council analysis of 212 doctoral programs at American universities, 48 Berkeley programs place among the top 10 nationwide. Faculty awards and honors: There are 8 Nobel Laureates, 32 MacArthur Fellows, and 4 Pulitzer Prize winners among the current faculty. History of UC Berkeley: Historical highlights, arranged by topic, following the campus's development — from UC's founding in 1868 to a turn-of-the-century building boom, a research explosion in the 1930s, the Free Speech Movement of the '60s, and Berkeley's key role today in science and technology revolutions. Timeline of discoveries and contributions by UC Berkeley scholars. Traditions of Cal: Who was the Angel of Death? What's with the "Big C" up there in the hills — and why is it sometimes green? Who wears Oski's jolly bear head and size 54 yellow sweater? Tours and webcams: Check out what's happening on Sproul Plaza, the campus's true heart. See stunning live views of the Bay Area from the Lawrence Hall of Science's perch in the Berkeley hills. Chancellor and administration: Information on Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George W. Breslauer, and how the university is organized. Organizational charts are included. UC System overview and links: On the campuses, laboratories, and medical centers that comprise UC's public educational system, as well as UC's K-12 partnerships, economic impact, and agriculture and environmental resources.


The University of Michigan (UM, U-M, UMich, or U of M), frequently referred to as simply Michigan, is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan. It is one of the original eight Public Ivy universities and is one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities. It has been ranked among the top five research universities in the US, and among the top 20 universities in the world. U-M also has satellite campuses in Flint and Dearborn.


IDEO LP provides marketing, consulting, product development, and branding and designing services. It offers strategic services, including exploration, service design and transformation services. The company was founded by David M. Kelly, Mike Nuttall and Bill Moggridge in 1991 and is headquartered in Palo Alto, CA.

Career History
Professor of Management Science & Engineering

Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15 the previous year. Stanford is generally ranked among the best universities in the world by academic publications. It is also one of the top fundraising institutions in the country, becoming the first school to raise more than a billion dollars in a year.

Boards & Committees
Member, Board of Trustees

Institute for the Future is an independent, non-profit research organization with a 45-year track record of helping all kinds of organizations make the futures they want. Their core research staff and creative design studio work together to provide practical foresight for a world undergoing rapid change.

Awards & Honors
Business 2.0 - Leading Management Guru
Eugene L. Grant Award
McGraw-Hill - Innovation award
Creative Works

Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation


The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Firms Turn Knowledge Into Action

Other Affiliations

Robert I. Sutton is affiliated with Stanford University, Institute for the Future

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