Scaling Up Excellence


Date Thursday February 20th 2014
Time 5:00-6:30pm (5:00-6:00 presentation and Q&A, followed by networking until 6:30)
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC

PARC Forum

Scaling Up Excellence

Stanford professor Bob Sutton will discuss the core lessons of a seven year project in which he and colleague Huggy Rao learned “the problem of more,” the challenge of spreading constructive beliefs, and actions from those who have them to those who don’t.  In other words, what it takes to scale up without screwing up.  

Sutton will draw on studies and stories from startups, pharma, airlines, retail, financial services, high-tech, education, non-profits, government, and healthcare to illustrate these lessons, including:

  • Why navigating the “Buddhism-Catholicism continuum” is so essential: Home Depot’s expansion to China was doomed by their Catholic approach (replicating their “do it yourself” model in a “do it for me” culture) while IKEA triumphed with a Buddhist approach (adapting to the “do it for me” culture while maintaining a consistent brand)
  • How Facebook’s Bootcamp infects new engineers with a “move fast and break things” mindset
  • How the Girl Scouts spread the Thrive program to hundreds of volunteers, which in turn, led thousands of girls to become more adept at setting goals and bouncing back from setbacks
  • How “using hierarchy” to “repair bureaucracy” and “cut cognitive load” enabled two managers to scale’s development organization from 40 to 600 people (now they’re helping to scale Twitter)
  • How shrinking teams helped startup Pulse News boost accountability and creativity as it quintupled in size and helped a New York hospital reduce patient waiting times from 8 hours to 5 hours
  • How Kaiser Permanente rolled out an electronic health records system to over 9 million patients and 170,000 employees by imposing a few simple “guardrails”

Through such inspiring stories, cautionary tales, and instructive studies, Sutton will describe what it takes to cascade excellence throughout organizations and teams—by spreading the right mindset, not just a footprint; eliminating bad apple behaviors that hold them back; linking “hot” causes to tangible “cool” solutions; and cutting “cognitive load” while embracing necessary complexity.


Robert I. Sutton is professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, where he is co-founder of the Center for Work Technology and Organizations, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and Institute of Design (“the”). Sutton was 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.” His books include The Knowing-Doing Gap (with Jeffrey Pfeffer), Weird Ideas that Work, and two New York Times bestsellers The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss. His next book Scaling-Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less (with Huggy Rao) will be published in February 2014. Sutton is a Fellow at IDEO and is an academic director of three Stanford executive education programs: Leadership for Strategic Execution, Customer-Focused Innovation and a new online program called the Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate.  He blogs at Work Matters and as a LinkedIn Influencer.  You can follow Sutton @work_matters on Twitter.

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