New Book from Stanford Professors on Scaling Up Excellence

Stanford University Professors Hayagreeva (Huggy) Rao and Bob Sutton are addressing the “problem of more” in business with their new book, Scaling up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less. Together, They unpack the principles that help to cascade excellence throughout an organization, as well as provide strategy on eliminating destructive beliefs and behaviors that will hold them back.

The professorial pair are good friends and colleagues, as they are both absorbed by why and how behavior spreads — within and between organizations, across networks of people, and in the marketplace. “Our definition of excellence is simple: that people do the right thing when no one is watching,” say Sutton and Rao.

Scaling Up Excellence is the first major business book devoted to this universal and vexing challenge. Robert Sutton is professor of management science and engineering in the Stanford School of Engineering. Huggy Rao is professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Together they are the Academic Directors for the Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate, an online certificate featuring their courses, Leading Innovation and Scaling Excellence through Innovation.

Drawing on inside accounts, case studies and academic research from a wealth of industries — including start-ups, pharmaceuticals, airlines, retail, financial services, high-tech, education, non-profits, government, and healthcare — Sutton and Rao identify the key scaling challenges that confront every organization.

Key lessons of Scaling Up Excellence

  • Managing the difficult trade-offs that organizations must make between “Buddhism” versus “Catholicism” — whether to encourage individualized approaches tailored to local needs or to replicate the same practices and customs as an organization or program expands.
  • Developing and maintaining the right mindset in an organization or a team–a predisposition for action, knowing what to do without doubt and having a clear understanding of what is sacred or taboo.
  • Harnessing the right amount of standardization – enough to elicit strong and efficient growth, yet yielding when it comes to facilitating innovation.

In the startup world, scaling can mean growing a team from 6 to 20. In a large organization, scaling can mean maintaining a culture where everyone knows what matters and how to go about getting it. Sutton and Rao have devoted much of the last decade to uncovering what it takes to build and uncover pockets of exemplary performance, to help spread them, and to keep recharging organizations with ever better work practices. Whatever the definition you may hold of scaling, their work will help leaders spread something good to more people and places without sacrificing excellence.

For more information and an interview with the writers, please click here

About the authors

Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao is Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at Stanford GSB, and director of the Managing Talent for Strategic Advantage Executive Program. 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 the role of collective action as a motor of organizational change and innovation.


Robert I. Sutton is a professor of management science and engineering in Stanford School of Engineering and a cofounder of the HassoPlattner Institute of Design, “d.School” at Stanford..Professor Sutton’s research focuses on the links (and gaps) between managerial knowledge and organizational action, organizational creativity and innovation, organizational performance, and evidence-based management. He has published over 100 articles and chapters in scholarly and applied publications. He has also published eight books and edited volumes.

Together they are codirectors of the Stanford Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate, a new online executive program that is a joint venture between Stanford GSB and Stanford School of Engineering.

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