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Organisational Change Keynote Speaker, Stanford Professor, Bestselling Author


Robert Sutton is an organisational change expert, Stanford Professor, and New York Times best-selling author.

His research focuses on organizational change, leadership, innovation, and workplace dynamics.

Current Work:

At Stanford, Sutton is a Professor of Management Science and Engineering. He co-founded the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (which everyone calls “the d school”).

He has published over 150 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and management outlets, including the Harvard Business Review and the McKinsey Quarterly, and news outlets such as The New York Times, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal.

His books include New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Weird Ideas That Work, The Knowing-Doing Gap (with Jeffrey Pfeffer), Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense (with Jeffrey Pfeffer), which The Globe and Mail selected as the best business book of 2006.

The No Asshole Rule was a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller. His latest book, The Asshole Survival Guide, was inspired by that best-seller. It shifts from a focus on building civilized workplaces to providing evidence-based and field-tested strategies for avoiding, outwitting, disarming, and escaping workplace jerks.

His recent book, Scaling Up Excellence (with Huggy Rao) is a Wall Street Journal bestseller and selected as one of the best business books of the year by Amazon, the Financial Times, Inc., The Globe and Mail, and Library Journal. Sutton’s current project with Huggy Rao, The Friction Project, focuses on the causes of and cures for destructive organizational friction-and when and why friction is a good thing.

You can hear some of his insights into this topic through The Friction Podcast, which he hosts for Stanford Technology Ventures Program.
Sutton’s honors include the Academy of Management Journal’s award for the best-published paper in 1989, the Eugene L. Grant Award for Excellence in Teaching, Business 2.0’s leading “management guru” in 2002, and the Academy of Management Review’s award for the best-published article in 2005. The London Business School also selected Sutton for the 2014 Sumantra Ghoshal Award “for rigor and relevance in the study of management.”

The American Management Association ranked Sutton 10th among their Top 30 Leaders who Influenced Business in 2014. He was also named as one of 10 “B-School All-Stars” by BusinessWeek, which they described as “professors who are influencing contemporary business thinking far beyond academia.”

Sutton has given keynote speeches to more than 200 groups in 20 countries. His ideas and opinions have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Financial Times, Esquire, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, Wired, TechCrunch, Vanity Fair, and Washington Post. Sutton has been a guest on many radio and television shows, including on ABC, Bloomberg, BBC, CNBC, Fox, NBC Today Show, KGO, PBS, NPR, Marketplace, and CNN. He also blogs for Harvard Business Review and as an “influencer” on LinkedIn.

Sutton received his Ph.D. in Organisational Psychology from The University of Michigan and has served on the Stanford faculty since 1983. He is a Senior Scientist at Gallup and Academic Director of two executive education programs: Customer-Focused Innovation and the Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate. Sutton served as an advisor to McKinsey & Company, an IDEO Fellow, and a board member at the Institute for the Future. He has served as a professor at the Haas Business School, a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and faculty at the World Economic Forum at Davos.

Talking Points

Scaling Your Company: How to spread and enhance excellence-in everything from Start-ups to big organisations (Based On His Best-Seller "Scaling Up Excellence")

For the past 15 years, Stanford’s Bob Sutton and co-author Huggy Rao have studied, written about, and worked with diverse companies on three elements of leading at scale: How to grow organizations, including skills that leaders need to develop as their teams and businesses grow (“up”), how to spread good norms, practices, and behaviors throughout organizations (out”), and how to be an effective leader in a large and complex organization (“big”). In addition to numerous articles on such topics, Sutton and Rao wrote that bestselling book Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less and are currently writing The Friction Project: How Smart Organizations Make the Right Thigs Easier, the Wrong Things Harder, and Do it Without Driving people Crazy.

Sutton has done keynotes and led workshops on leading at scale for more than 100 organizations including Google, Bloom Energy, Deloitte, SAP, InBev, WestRock, Oracle, Rabobank, Netflix, United Fresh, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Girl Scouts of the USA, Uber, UL, McKinsey, American Medical Association, Medtronic, Onyx Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Amgen), and since 2019, he has developed and delivered more than a dozen interactive sessions for Microsoft executives.

The key themes that Sutton discusses during such in-person and online gatherings include:
- Scaling as “the problem of more”
- Scaling as the challenge of “unity of effort,” of bringing many people together and moving them forward
- Key scaling cases including Airbnb, AstraZeneca, IBM, IKEA, Disney, Google, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Netflix, Pixar, Procter & Gamble, Uber, Waze, and the 100,000 Lives Campaign
- Scaling is about spreading a mindset, not just footprint
- The power of accountability-of acting as if you own the place and it owns you
- Scaling is about going fast and slow
- Scaling as a problem of less and more (and how to overcome the default human tendency to solve problems via addition rather than subtraction)
- Customize vs. standardize: A crucial, complex, and continuous choice point in every scaling journey
- How scaling is driven by linking “hot causes” to “cool solutions”
- Scaling by connecting people and cascading excellence
- Scaling by going “from bad to great.”
- Key scaling skills for leaders: delegation, division, integration, exclusion, and repetition
- Parting points: Scaling as manageable mess and why “change is difficult and takes a long time” is a dangerous half-truth.

Friction Project: How the best leaders and companies make the right things easy to do and the wrong things too difficult (or impossible) to do

The Fundamentals of Modern Management

Moderated Fireside Chat with Bob Sutton

In this experience, the moderator can interact with Dr. Sutton on a combination of his (3) key topics, listed here. This allows a more unique and customized experience for the audience and how his tools and practical takeaways can be applied.
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