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,” emphasizes Dr. Gardner, who in 2023 was named among the top 50 management thinkers in the world by Thinkers50. “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®.
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.