praise for Amy Edmondson
“Edmondson’s insights that teams are verbs rather than nouns, and that leaders who focus on ‘teaming’ animate a more adaptive work environment, are a major advance in our grasp of leading, organizing, and learning. This is the work of a gifted, hands-on scholar at her best!”
– Karl E. Weick, Professor, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
Amy C. Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, a chair established to support the study of human interactions that lead to the creation of successful enterprises that contribute to the betterment of society.
Edmondson has been ranked by the biannual Thinkers50 global list of top management thinkers since 2011 (most recently #13). She teaches and writes on leadership, teams and organizational learning. Her books, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy and Teaming to Innovate (Jossey-Bass, 2012, 2103) explore teamwork in dynamic, unpredictable work environments. Her book, Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation (Berrett-Koehler, 2016), reveals the challenges and opportunities of innovation that involves teaming across industry sectors. Her next book, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, scheduled for release in October, 2018, offers practical guidance for teams and organizations who are serious about success in the modern economy.
Before her academic career, she was Director of Research at Pecos River Learning Centers, where she worked on the design and implementation of transformational change in large companies. In the early 1980s, she worked as Chief Engineer for architect/inventor Buckminster Fuller, and her book A Fuller Explanation: The Synergetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller (Birkauser Boston, 1987) clarifies Fuller’s mathematical contributions for a non-technical audience. Edmondson received her PhD in organizational behavior, AM in psychology, and AB in engineering and design, all from Harvard University.
She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, George Daley, a physician-scientist and Dean of Harvard Medical School, and their two sons.
- What Is a Learning Organization?
- Innovation in Teams and Organizations
- Collaborative Work Environments and Innovation
Using the dramatic situation of the 2010 rescue of 33 miners trapped 2000 feet underground in the high desert of Chile, I explore the role of leadership in creating an organization that accomplishes remarkable feats against difficult odds. Explaining how the Chilean rescue unfolded serves to highlight a particular kind of leadership that directs and empowers at the same time. The session also emphasize the power of teaming coordinating and collaborating across boundaries of many kinds (knowledge, distance, status). The discussion will emphasize that a top-down, command-and-control approach would have failed utterly, as would pure bottom up (simply encouraging everyone to try anything, which would have produced chaos and harm). Instead, what was required, facing the unprecedented situation and ambiguous context, was coordinated teaming multiple fluid groups of people working separately on different types of problems, and coordinating across groups, as needed. Success, as in today’s pharmaceutical marketplace, also required progressive experimentation. This is a process that requires leadership.
Using video vignettes of various leaders and organizations (e.g., Ed Catmull at Pixar, David Kelley at IDEO, Ferran Adria at El Bulli, or Steve Jobs at Apple, I will introduce and engage executives in a discussion of building a culture of innovation, and the role played by a company’s leadership in accomplishing this. The core emphasis is the paradoxical culture of innovation which is both playful and rigorous, failure tolerant and ambitious, and the role of leadership in building such a culture.