Huggy Rao

• Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at the Stanford Graduate School of Business

• Co-director Designing Organizational Change Project

Author of 'Scaling Up Excellence' & 'Market Rebels'

Learn more here.

Professor Rao has published widely in the fields of management and sociology and studies the social and cultural causes of organizational change. In his research, he studies three sub-processes of organizational change: a) creation of new social structures, b) the transformation of existing social structures, and c) the dissolution of existing social structures. His recent work investigates the role of social movements as motors of organizational change in professional and organizational fields.

His research has been published in journals such as the Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal. He is also the author of Market Rebels: How Activists Make or Break Radical Innovation, Princeton University Press. 2009.

He serves as the Editor of Administrative Science Quarterly, and has been a member of the editorial boards of American Journal of Sociology and Organization Science and Academy of Management Review. He has been a Member of the Organizational Innovation and Change Panel of the National Science Foundation.

He is the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. And he is a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Science, a Fellow of the Sociological Research Association, a Fellow of the Academy of Management, and Co-director of the Designing Organizational Change Project also at Stanford University.

His latest book is Scaling Up Excellence (2014), co-authored with Bob Sutton.

Speech topics

The Friction fix

Too often, organizations drive people crazy with friction, make the wrong things easy to do, and the right things hard to do. As a result, good people do bad things. Friction is like cholesterol: just as bad cholesterol destroys arteries, friction weakens initiative and collaboration. Just as good cholesterol cleans arteries, good friction can be a source of commitment building and also a speed break in decision making. We discuss how bad friction can be eliminated, and good friction be harnessed so that the right things become easier to do, the wrong things hard, and no one is driven crazy.

Scaling-Up Excellence

Scaling-Up Excellence tackles a challenge that confronts every leader and organization - spreading constructive beliefs and behavior from the few to the many, and making sure that people do the right thing even nobody is looking at them or monitoring them. The two challenges of scaling excellence are getting people to do MORE and getting them do it BETTER. Put another way, the essence of leading change is to scale excellence. Scaling is a skill necessary for leaders of small startups, or teams, or departments, and large organizations. The key choices that leaders face and principles that help organizations to scale-up without screwing-up are strikingly consistent -- whether the task is to grow a Silicon Valley start-up like Pulse from 4 to 20 people, double the number of lawyers at Google, spread best practices for selling beer from the best U.S. Budweiser distributors to the rest, open a new KIPP charter school in Washington DC, grow the Joie de Vivre Hotel chain, open a See's Candy store in Texas, reduce drug treatment errors in San Francisco area hospitals, or open Home Depot stores in China.

Learn how to:

  • Build a mindset of accountability by designing hot causes and cool solutions.

  • Be a Catholic who replicates or innovations or a Buddhist who creates variety.

  • Subtract cognitive load than add to it.

  • Use subtle cues that touch the five senses to propel excellence.

  • Design incentives to juice effort.

  • Descale bad behaviors.

  • Connect and cascade excellence.

  • Create scaling capacity by increasing talent density.

How to Change Your Organization: In 10 Not-So-Easy Steps

Huggy Rao has continued to study and work with organizations that are bent on changing for the better since the publication of Scaling Up Excellence in early 2014. As the book emphasizes, spreading and sustaining excellence (or any other flavor of organizational change) isn’t simple, isn’t easy, and the work is never done. Yet there are certain essential, and sometimes surprising, methods for leading change that are emerging from their ongoing efforts to understand how and why organizational change happens, tracking the best academic research on change, and discussing their emerging ideas with leaders from diverse industries who are knee-deep in such always messy but often rewarding adventures.


Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

Huggy Rao tackles a challenge that determines every organization’s success: how to scale up farther, faster, and more effectively as an organization grows.

Market Rebels: How Activists Make or Break Radical Innovations

Read Market Rebels to learn how activists succeed when they construct "hot causes" that arouse intense emotions, and exploit "cool mobilization"--unconventional techniques that engage audiences in collective action.

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