Originally published December 13, 2021
This is the 75th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Heidi Gardner is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and Program Chair of the Sector Leadership Master Class and Smarter Collaboration Master Class. Previously she was a professor at Harvard Business School and continues to teach executive education there and at other Harvard graduate schools. Heidi studies collaboration between highly autonomous, powerful knowledge workers such as partners in professional service firms, physicians, and research scientists. Her book, Smart Collaboration, a Washington Post best-seller, turns a soft subject into hard evidence for why collaboration is becoming truly essential in today’s complex world.
Heidi K. Gardner, PhD, is the author of more than 80 books, chapters, case studies, and articles, she was named by Thinkers 50 as a Next Generation Business Guru. She is co-founder of the research and advisory firm Gardner & Co., a recognized thought leader in Smart Collaboration. Gardner & Co’s groundbreaking psychometric tool, the Smart Collaboration Accelerator, developed after a decade of primary research, has been adapted by leaders worldwide as a practical tool for embedding a collaborative culture.
Her latest book, Smarter Collaboration, captures new research, case studies and practical, tested applications of the concepts in industries ranging from healthcare, banking, government agencies, technology, manufacturing, media, retail and more.
Heidi’s research received the Academy of Management’s prize for Outstanding Practical Implications for Management and has been selected three times for Harvard Business Review’s “best of” collections. Her paper “Feeling the heat: The effects of performance pressure on teams’ knowledge use and performance” was the recipient of the Academy of Management’s award for “Outstanding Paper with Practical Implications for Management” in 2009.
Heidi has lived and worked on four continents, including as a Fulbright Fellow, and for McKinsey & Co. and Procter & Gamble. She earned a BA in Japanese Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), a master’s from the London School of Economics (highest distinction), and a second master’s and PhD from London Business School.
- Harvard Law School
- Distinguished Fellow, 2014 — Present
- Lecturer on Law, 2014–2018
- Chief — Founding Member, 2020 — Present — the only private membership network focused on connecting and supporting women C-suite leaders. Chief members exchange ideas across industries, empower each other to advance, and effect change from the top-down.
- Harvard Business School — Assistant Professor of Business Administration, 2008 — Present
- McKinsey & Company — Engagement Manager, 1997–2002
- Procter & Gamble — Manager, 1992–1995
- London Business School — Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Organizational Behavior, 2002–2008
- The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) — MSc, Industrial Relations, 1996–1997
- University of Pennsylvania — BA, East Asian Studies (Japanese), 1988–1992
- Harvard Law School
- Harvard University Professional and Lifelong Learning
- Practicing Law Institute
- Gardner and Co
- Lucidea’s Lens
- Smart Collaboration
- Over-committed organizations
- Getting Your Stars to Collaborate: How Dana-Farber turns rival experts into problem-solving partners — Harvard Business Review · Jan 1, 2017 — How can you transform a competitive, star-driven culture into a collaborative one? Lessons from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute translate into the business context, showing that you can foster cross-discipline collaboration even if you can’t change either the compensation or promotion systems.
- When Senior Managers Won’t Collaborate: Lessons from Professional Services Firms — Harvard Business Review — Feb 1, 2015 — Professional service firms earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, and can gain an important competitive edge when their partners collaborate to serve clients. But many partners are hard-pressed to spend time and energy on collaborative ventures that they could otherwise dedicate to building their own practices. Research investigates this quandary, analyzing masses of data to develop an empirical view of the benefits for professionals who invest in collaborating with their peers — even if it’s a long-run game. Also gives a roadmap for partners and their firms who are interested in fostering the kind of collaboration that pays off.
- Coming Through When It Matters Most: How Great Teams Do Their Best Work Under Pressure — Harvard Business Review · Apr 1, 2012 — Every team would like to think it does its best work when the stakes are highest — when the company’s future or its own rides on the outcome. But instead, new research shows, the pressure to perform drives people paradoxically toward safe, generic solutions that can be justified because they’ve worked before. By setting up their teams and measuring each person’s contribution more deliberately, ruthlessly insisting that no one’s contribution be marginalized, and framing new information within familiar contexts, teams can escape the performance pressure paradox and keep doing their best work when it matters most.
- Dynamically Integrating Knowledge in Teams: A Resource-based View of Team Performance — Academy of Management Journal — In knowledge-based environments, teams must develop a systematic approach to integrating knowledge resources throughout the course of projects in order to perform effectively. Yet, many teams fail to do so. Drawing on the resource-based view of the firm, examines how teams can develop a knowledge-integration capability to dynamically integrate members’ resources into higher performance. Distinguishes among three sets of resources: relational, experiential, and structural, and propose that they differentially influence a team’s knowledge-integration capability. Theoretical framework tested using data on knowledge workers in professional services. Discusses implications for research and practice.
- Performance Pressure as a Double-Edged Sword: Enhancing Team Motivation While Undermining the Use of Team Knowledge — Administrative Science Quarterly — Develops and empirically tests the proposition that performance pressure acts as a double-edged sword for teams, providing positive effects by enhancing team motivation to achieve good results while simultaneously triggering process losses. Conducted a multi-method field study of 78 audit and consulting teams from two global professional firms, revealing an irony of team life: Even though motivated to perform well on a high-stakes project, pressured teams are more likely to engage in performance-detracting behaviors. Survey results show that, as performance pressure increases, team members begin to over-rely on general expertise while discounting domain-specific expertise, leading to suboptimal performance. Uses longitudinal qualitative case studies to explore the underlying behavioral mechanisms that generate this outcome. Results also show that only domain-specific expertise — the kind that teams under-use when facing higher pressure — increases client-rated team performance. Finding, paradoxically, that when teams need domain-specific expertise the most, they tend to use it the least, despite evidence suggesting they are highly motivated to do well on their task.
- LinkedIn Posts
- Harvard Business Review
- Harvard Business School
- Semantic Scholar
- The Collaboration Imperative for Today’s Law Firms: Leading High-Performance Teamwork for Maximum Benefit
The Smart Collaboration Accelerator
The Seven Dimensions of Smart Collaboration
The Accelerator identifies and quantifies an individual’s behavioral tendencies. These are not immutable aspects of an individual’s personality but their natural ways of behaving. There are no good or bad behavioral preferences. No matter where a person sits on each dimension, this strength can be used as ‘catalyst’ to improve collaboration when used with intentionality.
- Wary / Trusting: The level of inherent and contextual trust in others
- Complex / Concrete: Attraction to more complex problems and innovation
- Risk Spotter / Risk Seeker: Captures a person’s innate beliefs about the balance of risk versus opportunity when working with others
- Close / Distant: The frequency and nature of communication with others
- Hands on / Hands off: Level of need for control of one’s environment / work
- Responder / Initiator: Taking the initiative and anticipating events
- Individual / Group: Prioritizing working in groups on one’s own
2014 CV — Selected Articles
- Dynamically Integrating Knowledge in Teams: Transforming Resources into Performance
- Teams Have Changed: Catching up to the Future
- Expertise Utilization in Accounting and Consulting Teams: The Effects of Shared Representations
- Feeling the Heat: The Effects of Performance Pressure on Teams’ Knowledge Use and Performance
- Knowledge-Based Innovation: Emergence and Embedding of New Practice Areas in Management Consulting Firms
- Implementing a Smart Collaboration Strategy
- Part 1: Building the Case for Change
- Part 2: Optimizing Individuals’ and Leaders’ Collaborative Behaviors
- Part 3: Identifying and Prioritizing Client Opportunities
- Bloomberg Law
- Part 1: Harvard Study Debunks Rainmaker Myths, Finds Collaboration is Key
- Part 2: Collaboration Strategies for Rainmakers
- Part 3: Harvard Study Lays Out Keys to Collaboration Among Lawyers
The Business Case for Collaboration
- Knowing The True Value of Collaboration on Business by Daisy Hernandez
- Up Close on Smart Collaboration by Abe Peck
- Monica Zent
- Agnes Kunkel
- Genevieve Antono
- Craig Budner
- Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell
- Laura Briggs
- Bill Cushard and Sarah E. Brown
- LOD: Remote working for lawyers
- LOD: Smart collaboration
- Cynthia Voth: Generating Value and Establishing Trust
- David Hashmall
- Sarah Green CarmichaelL Collaborating Better Across Silos
- Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work with Ivan A. Matviak
- Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos — Professional service firms face a serious challenge. Clients increasingly need them to solve complex problems that only teams of multidisciplinary experts can tackle. Yet, most firms have carved their highly specialized professionals into narrow silos, and collaborating across them is often messy, risky, and costly. This book shows that firms earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, attract and retain the best talent, and gain a competitive edge when specialists collaborate across boundaries. Her empirical research demonstrates clearly and convincingly that collaboration pays, for both professionals and their firms. Case studies and real-world examples reveal how to achieve those benefits.
- Smart Collaboration for In-house Legal Teams
- Smart Collaboration for Lateral Hiring: Successful Strategies to Recruit and Integrate Laterals in Law Firms
- Effective Practice Group Leadership
Selected Book Chapters
- Teamwork and Collaboration in Professional Service Firms: Evolution, Challenges, and Opportunities — Chapter 17 in L. Empson, D. Muzio, J. Broschak and B. Hinings (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Professional Service Firms
- Effective Teamwork and Collaboration — pages 145–159 in R. Normand-Hochman (Ed.): Managing Talent for Success: Talent Development in Law Firms
- Utilizing Team Member Expertise Under Pressure — pages 143–148 in L. W. Black (Ed.), Group Communication: Cases for Analysis, Appreciation and Application
- Your Expertise: Developing New Practices: Recipes for Success — Chapter 4 in L. Empson (Ed.), Managing the Modern Law Firm