Find A Speaker or Advisor
Heidi Gardner headshot
Share this speaker on:
New To Stern / Human Resource Management & Talent Development / Company Culture / Leadership / Strategy / Hybrid Work & Work From Home / Must-Read Books / Business Model Innovation / Diversity, Equity & Inclusion / Trust & Empathy / Women Speakers & Advisors


  • Heidi K. Gardner, PhD Speaking Highlights
    Heidi K. Gardner, PhD Speaking Highlights
  • Dr. Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan A. Matviak Introduce their New Book, Smarter Collaboration
    Dr. Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan A. Matviak Introduce their New Book, Smarter Collaboration
  • Smarter Collaboration: Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work | Heidi Gardner
    Smarter Collaboration: Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work | Heidi Gardner
  • Harvard Business Review Press Webinar with Dr. Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan Matviak
    Harvard Business Review Press Webinar with Dr. Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan Matviak
  • Dr. Heidi K. Gardner Speaks at the University of Idaho's 2022 Winter Commencement Ceremony
    Dr. Heidi K. Gardner Speaks at the University of Idaho's 2022 Winter Commencement Ceremony
  • Remote Interview with  Dr Heidi Gardner
    Remote Interview with Dr Heidi Gardner
  • HLS Library Book Talk | Smart Collaboration
    HLS Library Book Talk | Smart Collaboration
  • Smarter Collaboration to Optimize Lateral Hiring and Mergers with Dr. Heidi Gardner
    Smarter Collaboration to Optimize Lateral Hiring and Mergers with Dr. Heidi Gardner
  • Heidi Gardner, Passage of power: Who inherits clients of retiring professional partners?
    Heidi Gardner, Passage of power: Who inherits clients of retiring professional partners?
  • Leadership for Lawyers Book Launch Event
    Leadership for Lawyers Book Launch Event

Learn More About Heidi K. Gardner

How do some rare companies unleash the power and passion of their employees and their broader networks to achieve tremendous innovation and growth, while many organizations’ know-how is trapped in silos?

What are the critical mindsets and behaviors in the board, executive suite and front lines that unlock expertise across the organization to tackle complex, high-value issues and opportunities? How do leaders avoid the traps that turn well-intentioned collaboration into overload, underperformance, or biased decision-making? How do executives build the systems and culture that drive sustainably higher performance while nurturing inclusivity and employee wellbeing?

Dr. Heidi K. Gardner is a sought-after advisor, bestselling author, Harvard professor, and former McKinsey consultant who has dedicated two decades to finding science-backed, empirically tested, pragmatic ways to foster smarter collaboration.

Widely regarded as the foremost expert on collaborative working today, Dr. Gardner is currently a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, and was previously a professor at Harvard Business School. She serves as Faculty Chair and instructor of multiple executive education programs at both institutions. With her team at Gardner & Co., she helps organizations across the globe to achieve their strategic objectives through smarter collaboration—creating an environment where people play to their strengths and achieve superior outcomes.

The author or co-author of over 100 publications, Dr. Gardner’s work has been selected multiple times for Harvard Business Review’s “best of” collections. Her groundbreaking Washington Post bestseller “Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos” and just-released “Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work” (both Harvard Business Review Press) show how firms that collaborate smarter consistently generate higher revenues and profits, boost innovation, strengthen client relationships, and attract and retain better talent.

“Smart collaboration is the best way to accomplish a company’s strategic, financial, and talent goals. Hardly a “soft” topic, it can and should be measurable,” Dr. Gardner emphasizes. “As our toughest and highest-value challenges become more VUCA—volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous—experts must integrate their knowledge to generate higher-impact solutions than anyone could produce on their own.”

As a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Co., Dr. Gardner became fascinated with understanding why some (but not other) contexts encourage employees to thrive—leading her to develop an empirically-based, scientific explanation to demonstrate the benefits of smarter collaboration. To provide a data-driven, objective way to improve collaboration-based outcomes, Gardner developed and launched the Smart Collaboration Accelerator, a psychometric assessment tool that helps individuals, leaders, and teams turn their behavioral tendencies into strengths to foster smart collaboration.  

Never giving mere speeches, Dr. Gardner customizes every presentation, often based on significant upfront diagnostic work that identifies collaboration barriers, structural and cultural impediments and leadership opportunities. Her tailored insights spark action by pushing audiences to find pragmatic applications for smarter collaboration. She also offers advice based on participants’ specific business challenges and opportunities, inspired by her work with senior executives, boards of directors, and front-line teams in hundreds of organizations around the world, in industries including professional services, financial services and fintech, healthcare, biotech/pharma, consumer products, automotive, energy/renewables, technology, and more.

Dr. Gardner emphasizes that leaders who don’t consider the benefits of collaboration are leaving talent and treasure on the table.

“When organizations get collaboration right by leveraging a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds across silos, they earn higher margins, inspire greater customer and employee loyalty, and attract more cutting-edge work,” she stresses. “Our data backs it up, and our approaches help companies achieve it.”

By combining strategy, analytics and insights from organizational behavior, Dr. Gardner provides a strengths-based, action-oriented methodology that transforms the soft science of teaming into the hard science of smarter collaboration, shaping organizations into institutions that attract admirers and accomplish unimaginable outcomes.

# # #

Dr. Heidi K. Gardner is a sought-after advisor, keynote speaker, and facilitator for organizations across a wide range of industries globally. Named by Thinkers50 as a Next Generation Business Guru, she is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and former professor at Harvard Business School. She is currently the faculty chair and instructor in multiple executive education programs at both institutions.

Dr. Gardner works extensively with her team at Gardner & Co., partnering with boards, executive teams, and other senior leaders to boost performance by embedding the principles and practices of smarter, agile, cross-silo collaboration within those groups and across the broader organization and ecosystem—resulting in concrete, quantifiable performance improvements.

Altogether, Dr. Gardner has authored (or co-authored) more than 100 books, chapters, case studies, and articles. Her research received the Academy of Management’s prize for Outstanding Practical Implications for Management and has been selected multiple times for Harvard Business Review’s “best of” collections. Her research has been featured in major media outlets around the globe.

Dr. Gardner has lived and worked on four continents, including as a Fulbright Fellow, and for McKinsey & Co. and Procter & Gamble. She earned her BA in Japanese Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude), a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a second master’s and Ph.D. from London Business School.

Dr. Heidi K. Gardner is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops, and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Heidi K. Gardner was last modified: May 8th, 2023 by Justin Louis

Read More Read Less

Smarter Collaboration: Breaking Down Silos to Boost Profits, Innovation and Engagement

From market volatility to ESG to capitalizing on the metaverse, leaders now face more complex challenges and opportunities than ever. Tackling these multi-faceted issues requires problem solving from diverse minds across the company and its ecosystem – but most of the time, the expertise is trapped in silos rather than harnessed for success. Drawing on a decade of award-winning, data-backed research at Harvard and firsthand work with hundreds of global companies, Dr. Heidi Gardner shows leaders how to get people working across functions and geographies – and with outside partners – to drive innovation, delight customers and engage their top talent. Sharing insights from her Washington Post bestselling book “Smart Collaboration” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2017) and its new sequel “Smarter Collaboration” (Harvard Business Review Press, November 2022), the highly interactive keynotes, workshops and advisory meetings help organizations troubleshoot thorny collaboration challenges like misaligned incentives, collaboration overload and unintended consequences on diversity and inclusion. Participants walk away with clear, pragmatic ideas for capturing the business and talent advantages of smarter collaboration.

Smarter Collaboration: Leading and Thriving through Turbulent Times

Instability and extreme pressure are inevitable parts of the business landscape. That’s when leaders especially need their people to join forces, apply their unique knowledge and skills and create innovative ways for overcoming the issue at hand – what Harvard’s Dr. Heidi Gardner calls Smarter Collaboration. But the irony is that the stress of factors like political uncertainty, market shocks or digital dislocation often forces people to retreat into defensive mindsets and behaviors. Dr. Gardner’s extensive research and experience with hundreds of organizations across the globe shows that during a crisis people typically defer to authorities, conform, and opt for safe solutions – the antithesis of smarter collaboration. But data-backed strategies do exist for embracing collaboration and its full range of benefits – including higher revenue and profit, deeper customer relationships, and a happier workforce – during the times it is most needed. Hear these game-changing ideas from Dr. Gardner, an award-winning speaker, bestselling author, and former McKinsey consultant. Offered in keynotes, workshops, or advisory meetings, her engagements help participants come up with approaches that are customized for their organization’s specific market, needs and challenges.

Profits, People and Purpose: Smarter Collaboration for Engagement and Performance

As much as enlightened leaders know the way to optimize performance is by engaging their talent, the pressures of today’s workplaces often create a task-focused, productivity-driven relationship between organizations and their people. In her bestselling book “Smart Collaboration” (Harvard Business Review Press, 2017), Dr. Heidi K. Gardner shows how companies can resolve this paradox: they get diverse people to work together across organizational silos – and with outside partners – to tackle higher-value issues and solutions, playing to their unique strengths and deriving greater meaning from their work. This more engaged workforce then generates higher revenues and profits, improved customer satisfaction and faster innovation. Drawing on psychology, neuroscience and data-backed analytics, Dr. Gardner’s work provides a framework for leaders to address the whole organization – boosting productivity and inclusion, while preventing over-commitment and burnout. Having lived and worked on four continents, Dr. Gardner is well-equipped to lead keynotes, workshops, or advisory meetings that address the cross-cultural nuances of designing solutions that optimize profits, people and purpose.

The go-to expert on using cross-silo and cross-company collaboration to capture quantifiable advantages, Dr. Heidi K. Gardner is highly experienced working with boards of directors, senior executive teams and larger-scale audiences including middle managers. Dr. Gardner combines her unique blend of science-backed applied research, data analytics and McKinsey consulting experience to design and deliver workshops that are, in the words of her clients, “game changers.”

Her highly acclaimed interactive workshops are customized based on a robust pre-event diagnostic process that is as efficient for the host organization as it is illuminating in its findings. Dr. Gardner uses a range of analytical models and growth-centric tools to enhance individual and group collaborative behaviors that unlock the bottom-line benefits. One such tool is the Smart Collaboration Accelerator—a data-based psychometric tool—to help participants understand their behavioral tendencies and use them as strengths to lead and foster smarter collaboration. These steps also lay the foundation of a collaborative culture where top talent thrives.

Available as half-day, full-day, or two-day sessions, her workshops are particularly beneficial for leaders who are committed to exploring the mindset and behaviors shifts that will result in significant, positive changes in their organization and outcomes.

Smarter Collaboration: Harnessing Inclusivity for Higher Team Performance

Engagement and collaboration aren’t “soft topics”—they are the best way to achieve higher performance. Backed up with data, analytics and case studies from her new book, “Smarter Collaboration” (Harvard Business Review Press, November 2022), world-renowned Harvard professor Dr. Heidi K. Gardner helps leaders create a context where team members thrive and performance soars. It’s not enough to bring diverse minds together; the group must fully leverage each person’s unique perspectives, strengths and experience. How do you motivate people to contribute based on their strengths? How do you lean into conflict, capitalizing on it as healthy friction to generate innovation? Using the Smart Collaboration Accelerator—a research-based psychometric assessment—each workshop participant gets personalized feedback to better understands their strengths and how to use them. The resulting Leader Insight Report aggregates data across the group to highlight collective blind spots: all to improve interpersonal dynamics, heighten performance and make participants more inclusive leaders for the rest of the organization. This small-group workshop is aimed at corporate boards, executive teams and cross-functional committees focused on driving performance, engagement and inclusivity.

Driving Sustainable, Higher-Performing Collaboration Across Organizations

Partnering across organizations—whether clients, suppliers, alliances, or even competitors—can be incredibly powerful but is often fraught or inefficient. This workshop brings together top stakeholders from across parties to build stronger, more effective, sustainable collaboration that drives measurable improvement in outcomes. Harvard professor and bestselling author Dr. Heidi K. Gardner guides participants to deepen trust, build multi-threaded relationships and identify potential friction points before they erupt—all with the goal of co-creating solutions and performance that go beyond what any of the groups could achieve on their own. Fostering this kind of smarter collaboration between two parties or across a bigger ecosystem demands the sort of science-backed, tested approaches that are the hallmark of Dr. Gardner’s research, teaching and consulting work.

Promoting Inclusive Leadership Through Smarter Collaboration

Drawing from Chapter 10 of Dr. Heidi K. Garner’s new book “Smarter Collaboration” (Harvard Business Review Press, November 2022), this workshop delves into the unintended consequences of well-intentioned decisions to expand diversity in one’s company. Through Dr. Gardner’s latest research findings and potentially your organization’s own data, you will uncover hidden patterns that suggest where biased decisions are having an adverse effect on your organization. No tradeoff is needed between hitting your numbers and making the right choices from a diversity and inclusion perspective: these two goals are actually mutually reinforcing. Take your newfound knowledge and turn it around to make sure you are capturing the benefits of inclusive leadership, helping you achieve your strategic outcomes—whether they are faster innovation, deeper customer relationships, or another critical area of focus.

Praise for “Smarter Collaboration”

"Market volatility. Sustainability demands. Hybrid working. Opportunities and hazards of fast-changing technology and regulations. Companies and nonprofits face more daunting challenges than ever. How can we collaborate in our organizations (and with outside partners) to solve problems, innovate, and succeed?

With the publication of 'Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work,' co- authors Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan A. Matviak offer truly groundbreaking solutions. 'Smarter Collaboration' lays out a pragmatic action plan blending rich stories, new empirical research, and loads of practical advice to help companies thrive by collaborating more effectively.

As Harvard Professor Heidi K. Gardner and senior executive Ivan A. Matviak show, firms that collaborate smarter consistently generate higher revenues and profits, boost innovation, strengthen client relationships, and attract and retain better talent. In this successor to Gardner's bestselling first book, 'Smarter Collaboration,' the co-authors expand their mandate, illustrating the fundamental dynamics of collaborating well across industries like financial services, health care, biotech/pharma, consumer products, automotive, and technology.

Based on their research with thousands of executives from around the world, they share deep insights on how to implement smarter collaboration and avoid the potential pitfalls. They also help leaders troubleshoot thorny challenges like misaligned incentives, collaboration overload, and unintended consequences on diversity and inclusion. Complete with illustrative how-to’s and cases, 'Smarter Collaboration' concludes with inspiring examples of groups harnessing smarter collaboration to tackle society's biggest challenges such as saving the oceans, eradicating diseases, and tackling global warming.

Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, 'Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work' must be considered as an essential and 'real world practical' instructional guide and 'how to' manual for corporate leaders at all levels to improve the way they work, and as a result, increase the impact and success of their corporate or non-profit organizations."

“The authors’ deep grasp of the business world combines with expertise in the psychology underpinning our human foibles. The result is actionable advice for implementing smarter collaboration to capture its financial and human benefits.”

Amy C. Edmondson, Professor, Harvard Business School; Author, “The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth” (Wiley, 2019)

“Gardner and Matviak provide leaders with a clear guide on making smarter collaboration happen. It’s full of tips on today’s most pressing topics, including hybrid working, inclusion, diversity and equity, and the role of technology and analytics. This is a must-read for any business leader. “

Nhlamu Dlomu, Global Head of People, KPMG International

“An organization’s culture determines its destiny. Smarter Collaboration does an excellent job of showing you how to get a great one.”

Ray Dalio, Founder, Bridgewater Associates; Author, “Principles: Life & Work” (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

“’Smarter Collaboration’ gives a practical blueprint for how leaders can systematically embed collaboration within and across organizational boundaries to achieve more meaningful, purpose driven outcomes.”

Ranjay Gulati, Professor, Harvard Business School; Author, “Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies” (Harper Business Publishing, 2022)

“Everyone talks about collaboration but relatively few people actually know how to do effectively. Gardner and Matviak have written the go-to guide for doing collaboration right. Their use cases for smarter collaboration will resonate deeply with any business leader who’s seeking to rev up innovation, profitability and employee engagement."

Gunjan Kedia, Vice Chairman, U.S. Bank

“In the coming years, one of the most significant private sector divides will be between companies which embrace collaboration, bridge-building and collective action to help them thrive, and those which remain limited by siloed-thinking and poor partnership skills. Gardner and Matviak will help your business ensure it is on the right side of that line.”

Paul Polman, Former CEO, Unilever; Business Leader and Campaigner; Co-Author, “Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take” (HBR Press, 2021)

“With the scale and complexity of challenges facing business and society today, knowing how to collaborate – how to really collaborate – is one of the most important skills of our time. Through pragmatic insight and engaging examples, Gardner and Matviak illuminate a path for leaders that begins with truly valuing the wisdom people bring, and results in innovations beyond what any one group could create alone.”

Sandy Speicher, Former CEO, IDEO

“Research-backed, full of case studies and practical advice, this book lays out a realistic roadmap for leaders to implement smarter collaboration and reap the benefits. ‘Smarter Collaboration’ is highly readable and thought-provoking.”

Neil Dhar, Vice Chair and Chief Clients Officer, PwC United States

Praise for “Smart Collaboration”

“[Gardner’s research] shows, unequivocally, the business and people benefits of collaboration…Far from being an added cost that clients will not pay for, it is the firms and individuals who do not address collaboration who are at the greatest risk of failing to grow, or even going out of business altogether.”

Journal of the Knowledge and Information Management Group (CILIP)

“This may be the best professional service marketing book for 20 years.”

Professional Marketer

“[Gardner] explains that in the modern world clients increasingly demand a highly sophisticated service when seeking solutions to complex problems. Such issues demand interdisciplinary teams.”


“The book is persuasive and thorough… a good guide on collaboration and how to overcome the resistance of the solo player.”

Financial Times

“[Gardner proposes] clear methods to help leaders promote collaboration in and between their teams, to improve the client experience and to attract and retain talent…. always with a view to ensuring that collaboration remains a useful tool and does not become an end in itself.”

Business Digest (France)

“Gardner’s insights offer valuable guidance for any knowledge-based organization that needs to bring teams of people together to innovate, create, and implement complex business solutions… She also offers practical advice on issues such as creating the right compensation systems, knowledge sharing and collaborative technology platforms.”

Developing Leaders

“A practical, research-grounded, book on collaboration.”

CHOICE, the publication of the American Library Association

“… valuable material to those of us who recognize that incremental change is, in reality, more sustainable and valuable. And that getting better at this is not a nice-to-have, it is vital.”

Legal Business Magazine

“Drawing on deep analysis and case studies across organizations, Gardner has turned a tricky topic―how to collaborate and why―into a set of clear prescriptions.”

Scott McDonald, President and CEO, Oliver Wyman Group

“’Smart Collaboration’ makes a bulletproof case for why collaborating provides the best results for clients and just makes good business sense.”

Jami McKeon, Chair, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP

“A remarkable blend of theory and practice, Gardner’s work on collaboration is at once rigorous and actionable. Backed by extensive empirical research, her book offers crucial guidance for professionals who want to deepen their relationships with clients, improve the service they provide, and increase their profitability―and that should be all professionals.”

Richard Susskind, Co-Author, "The Future of the Professions"