Teresa Amabile

Harvard Business School Professor | Bestselling Author

What really makes people happy, motivated, productive, and creative at work? In Teresa Amabile's research, she's discovered the answer. It’s “The Progress Principle,” and it reveals the single most important thing that managers can do to engage their employees. Teresa discovered eleven specific actions that managers can take to catalyze progress and nourish employees’ motivation which she will now share with your audience.

For 45 years, beginning with a series of empirical and theoretical papers in the 1970s and 1980s, Teresa Amabile researched, wrote about, and was instrumental in establishing, the social psychology of creativity – the study of how the social environment can influence creative behavior, primarily by influencing motivational state. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, she incorporated the study of creativity into a broader investigation of the day-by-day psychological experience and performance of people doing creative work inside organizations. This research led to Teresa’s discovery of the progress principle and the power of small wins. She is considered a leading scholar of creativity and innovation.


Teresa is currently leading a team of five scholars studying American professionals’ experience of transitioning to retirement. This research program focuses on the role of psychological factors, such as self-identity, and social factors, such as relationships, in the ways people make decisions about retirement, experience it, and restructure their lives during it.


Teresa’s scholarly work has appeared in a variety of psychology and organizational behavior journals, as well as her books, including The Social Psychology of Creativity (1983) and its update, Creativity in Context (1996); Growing Up Creative (1989); and The Progress Principle (2011). She has received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Israel Organizational Behavior Conference, as well as other honors and grants.


Teresa holds a B.S. in chemistry from Canisius College and a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University.

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Speech topics

How To Boost Employee Engagement And Increase Profitability

What really makes people happy, motivated, productive, and creative at work? In Teresa Amabile's research, she's discovered the answer. It’s “The Progress Principle,” and it reveals the single most important thing that managers can do to engage their employees. Analyzing nearly 12,000 daily diaries from over 200 knowledge workers, Amabile discovered eleven specific actions that managers can take to catalyze progress and nourish employees’ motivation. Through lectures, workshops, and interactive discussions on this topic, you will learn how to leverage “The Progress Principle” to achieve the dual goals of supporting employee well-being and igniting creative productivity.

How Leaders Make or Break the Work Environment for Innovation

According to common wisdom, innovation depends solely on the creative talents of the smartest people inside an organization. But common wisdom is wrong. Building on 35 years of research and work with some of the world’s most innovative companies, Teresa Amabile shows how talent and intelligence are only the raw materials that the best leaders shape into powerhouses of innovation. In talks and workshops on this topic, Amabile uses research and stories from diverse organizations to show how leaders at all levels can build the three components of individual creativity and the three components of organizational innovation. Through these insights, you will gain new leverage on the most important assets in contemporary businesses. What really makes people happy, motivated, productive, and creative at work? In Teresa Amabile's latest research, she's discovered the answer. It’s “The Progress Principle,” and it reveals the single most important thing that managers can do to engage their employees. Analyzing nearly 12,000 daily diaries from over 200 knowledge workers, Amabile discovered eleven specific actions that managers can take to catalyze progress and nourish employees’ motivation. Through lectures, workshops, and interactive discussions on this topic, you will learn how to leverage “The Progress Principle” to achieve the dual goals of supporting employee well-being and igniting creative productivity.

The Power of Small Wins

By collecting and analyzing nearly 12,000 daily diary entries from dozens of workers across companies and industries, Teresa Amabile discovered that 28% of seemingly minor events at work have a major impact on people’s emotions, perceptions, and motivation. The most important of these is the “small win”–incremental progress toward a meaningful goal. Of all the things that can maintain knowledge workers’ engagement and continually boost their performance, the single most powerful is making at least one step forward on meaningful work every day. The key for managers and for employees is developing the daily discipline to reflect on the day’s progress, setbacks, work catalysts, and work inhibitors, targeting one action for the following day. In this talk, you'll learn how to identify small wins, how to support and capitalize on them, and–ultimately–how to increase the probability that they will lead to innovative success.

Workplace Confidential: Revelations from Work Diaries

The popular television comedy The Office (BBC, NBC) shows workers revealing their innermost thoughts, feelings, and drives to an unseen, ever-present “other.” Through extensive research, Teresa Amabile has tapped into nearly 12,000 such revelations. Over 200 volunteers working on creative projects in 26 teams in 7 companies in 3 industries filled out electronic daily diary forms about their inner work lives and events unfolding at work–every day, over the entire course of their projects. The diary stories reveal the hidden perceptions, emotions, and motivations that people experience as they react to and make sense of the events in their workdays. In this presentation, you'll learn from a detailed analyses of these diaries; find out what really happens at work – from the perspective of people in the trenches; and explore the implications for people, their performance, and their organizations.

Books

The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

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