“No one knows more about making work better than this pair of experts, and they’ve produced a remarkably insightful, engrossing, evidence-based, and actionable read. If every leader took the ideas in this book seriously, the world would be a less miserable, more productive place.” 

—Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THINK AGAIN and host of the TED podcast WorkLife.


With his dynamic storytelling and unparalleled insights on leadership and organizational behavior, Huggy Rao is the catalyst your event needs to ignite meaningful change and unlock the true potential of teams.

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. 

He is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Scaling Up Excellence (2014), with Bob Sutton, as well as The Friction Project (2024), which was selected for The Next Big Ideas Club, season 23.

Learn more at

Speech topics

Leaders as Friction Fixers

Friction is like cholesterol: just as bad cholesterol destroys arteries, bad 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 leaders ought to be trustees of time, and think of their organization as a product that is malleable and flexible. 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.

 Learn how to:

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:

Leading Successful Organizational Change

Leading change does not mean ‘rolling out’ an initiative. Instead, it hinges on creating the conditions under which people can choose a more curious and generous version of themselves, such that executives have a playbook for a 100 day plan.

Learn how to:

Connect the Customer Experience to the Talent Experience: Live the mindset

Too often, the customer experience and talent experience are disconnected: so if one promises speed, bureaucratic processes slow you down. Linking the customer experience to the employee experience means that one lives a customer centric mindset.

Learn how to:


The Friction Project: How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and the Wrong Things Harder

Every organization is plagued by destructive friction―the forces that make it harder, more complicated, or downright impossible to get anything done.

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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