BOB SUTTON

Bob is a NY Times bestselling author who brings his expertise in organizational behavior and leadership to every speaking engagement. With his engaging and insightful presentations, he will inspire and equip your audience with the tools they need to thrive in the workplace.

Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. He is a 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, organizational change, scaling excellence, and workplace dynamics. He has published over 150 articles and chapters on these topics in peer-reviewed journals and the popular press. His books include Weird Ideas That Work, 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 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. He is also the author of Scaling-Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less (with fellow BrightSight speaker Huggy Rao), is a Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller and The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt.  In January of 2024, he's set to release his next book with Huggy: The Friction Project: How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and the Wrong Things Harder—Without Driving Everyone Crazy.

Professor Sutton’s honors include the award for the best paper in the Academy of Management Journal in 1989, the Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the award for the best article 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. Sutton was named as one of 10 “B-School All-Stars” by BusinessWeek , described as “professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia.” In 2014, the London Business School honored Sutton with the Sumantra Ghoshal Award for Rigour and Relevance in the Study of Management. He is a Fellow at IDEO and a Senior Scientist at Gallup.

Speech topics

The Friction Project

Alongside Huggy Raon, Bob spent seven years studying the forces that make it harder, slower, more complicated, or downright impossible to get things done in organizations. The Friction Project is about why and when such friction is destructive, useful, or a mixed bag. Above all, it’s about how to think and live like a friction fixer, so that your team or organization doesn’t squander the zeal, damage the health, and throttle the creativity and productivity of good people—and burn through cash and other precious organizational resources.

Bob will unpack how skilled friction-fixers think and act like trustees of others’ time. We provide friction forensics to help people identify where to avert and repair bad organizational friction and where to maintain and inject good friction. Then the help pyramid show how friction fixers do their work, which ranges from reframing friction troubles they can’t fix right now so they feel less threatening and upsetting to designing and repairing organizations.

Then he'll dig into the causes and solutions for five of the most common and damaging friction troubles. These traps are oblivious leaders, addition sickness, broken connections, jargon monoxide, and fast and frenzied people and teams. Before wrapping things up with mental provisioning for friction-fixers, including the virtues of focusing on the journey rather than the destination, how their craft entails linking little things to big things, how skilled friction fixers get “grease” and “gunk” people in right places, how the craft is very much about “friction shifting” (knowing when to change gears from high to low friction) the power of civility, caring, and love for propelling designs and repairs, and the importance of embracing the inevitable mess that is an inevitable part of the change process (while still trying to clean it up).

Scaling Up Excellence

Robert Sutton, along with colleague Hayagreeva Rao, spent the last decade working to uncover how the best leaders and organizations spread excellence: from people and places that have it, to those that don’t. Sutton shows how the fate of every organization depends on building or finding pockets of exemplary performance, and—more importantly—how to spread those splendid deeds from the few to the many. Scaling well requires more than just creating a big footprint in a small amount of time—it entails developing, spreading, and preserving the right shared beliefs about which behaviors are “sacred” and which “taboo”. He shares lessons and principles that can be applied to organizations of every size and stripe: including that scaling is a problem of more and less, the power of linking hot causes to cool solutions, cut cognitive load while maintaining necessary organizational complexity, connect pockets of existing excellence and cascade them to new places, and bad is stronger than good. He ends by arguing that, under even the best conditions, scaling is always a messy and uncertain process.

Good Boss, Bad Boss

Sutton weaves together the best psychological and management research with true stories to reveal the mindset and moves of the best bosses – which he bolsters by contrasting them with evidence on how the worst bosses think of themselves and treat their people. Sutton shows how bosses can master essentials including striking just the right balance between being too assertive and not assertive and doing dirty work like disciplining and firing employees in timely and humane ways.

Books

The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt

If you're feeling stressed out, overtaxed, under-appreciated, bullied, or abused because you work with a jerk, learn how to avoid, outwit, and disarm assholes—today.

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

Bestselling author, Robert Sutton and Stanford colleague, Huggy Rao tackle a challenge that determines every organization’s success: how to scale up farther, faster, and more effectively as an organization grows.

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best. and Learn from the Worst

If you are a boss who wants to do great work, what can you do about it? Good Boss, Bad Boss is devoted to answering that question.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't 

The definitive guide to working with -- and surviving -- bullies, creeps, jerks, tyrants, tormentors, despots, backstabbers, egomaniacs, and all the other assholes who do their best to destroy you at work.

Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company

A breakthrough in management thinking, “weird ideas” can help every organization achieve a balance between sustaining performance and fostering new ideas. To succeed, you need to be both conventional and counterintuitive.

The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action

The Knowing-Doing Gap is the first book to confront the challenge of turning knowledge about how to improve performance into actions that produce measurable result.

Podcast

Stanford Engineering Professor Bob Sutton and guests laugh in the face of petty office tyrants and worst practices while sharing insights that improve the way we work on The Friction Podcast.

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