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  • Innovations in Teamwork for Health Care
    Innovations in Teamwork for Health Care
  • Effective Teamwork in Health Care: Expert Panel Discussion
    Effective Teamwork in Health Care: Expert Panel Discussion
  • Michaela Kerrissey, PhD, MS, Harvard University - Leading in Complex Times Welcome Video
    Michaela Kerrissey, PhD, MS, Harvard University - Leading in Complex Times Welcome Video

Learn More About Michaela Kerrissey

In a knowledge economy, where experts often both collaborate and compete, how do teams effectively integrate their diverse expertise so they can problem solve cohesively, even when their goals are not fully aligned?

“Teaming is core to business in almost any area, but it often gets left to intuition and chance,” says Michaela Kerrissey, Ph.D., an award-winning professor of management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “There is a real competitive advantage to expertise in teaming – being able to build trust in the moment, communicate across divides and adapt on the fly.

A researcher on how teams and organizations innovate, integrate and perform, Kerrissey focuses on team climates and psychological experiences at work to create actionable frameworks for measuring what is working in an organization and then scaling it effectively. This results in cross organizational teamwork that enables significant long-term growth.

“In high-performing teams, we can use team data to spur discussion about what you’re aiming to do, what the empirical basis is for it, and what behaviors and processes to put in place to enable it to succeed,” she continues. “By bringing these kinds of teamwork tools to the conversation, you can bring more intention and less fluff to teamwork.”

Named to the 2023 Thinkers50 Radar list, Kerrissey is a leading expert on psychological safety who has co-written multiple Harvard Business Review articles with Amy Edmondson, including a summer 2023 piece on leading through sustained crises. A naturally engaging and passionate “expert on experts” who has received the Bok Center award for excellence in teaching, she designed the mandatory Management Science course at Harvard’s School of Public Health and teaches courses and executive education programs at both Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School. Through interactive talks, workshops and simulations using models she’s developed to work with high performing teams, she reveals how leaders can level up their teams to spur organizational innovation.

Inspired by her early career experience streamlining and organizing HIV/AIDS programs to put effective treatments in the hands of patients in need, Kerrissey has seen first-hand how “teaming with intention” can be a game-changer for organizations.

“Despite all the technical expertise developing new medications, organizational problems still prevented us from solving the issue at hand – saving lives,” Kerrissey shares. “I learned that the real challenge was finding out where conflict arises in teams of very skilled people so they can share information and problem solve together to achieve their goals.”

Drawing from her time working with experts around the world, she demonstrates how teams can collaborate effectively, even when spread across geographies or facing complexity and pressure. With a focus on the “4 Ups” model she developed – Speak Up, Listen Up, Team Up, and Level Up – her actionable strategies create a climate of psychological safety that enhances communication and aligns team efforts with organizational objectives. This cultivates environments where teamwork thrives, innovation flourishes and burnout is systematically addressed, all through intentional practice and structured interaction.

Leaders want to harness the full potential of their teams, but when it comes to making decisions, their varied experience can make it harder to solve problems – or may even inadvertently create an echo chamber.

“When you get people from different backgrounds together, they naturally have a bias to share information they know other people already know – because it feels psychologically comforting to know that people will agree with you. This leads to meetings where people reiterate what everyone already knows,” Kerrissey explains. “We can avoid this ‘common information effect’ by applying structure to conversations, giving teams a method for eliciting diverse ideas and making conflict an opportunity for learning.

Kerrissey’s approach creates an environment where challenges are viewed not as individual hurdles but as collective opportunities, encouraging teams to co-create solutions even when objectives diverge. Her strategy explores how to develop a “we mindset,” where psychological safety and lean thinking merge to empower teams to speak up, share diverse insights and work together across boundaries. With an encouraging bent, Kerrissey equips leaders with practical tools for cultivating this mindset within their organizations, enhancing their teams’ capacity to innovate and solve problems together, and fostering a culture of shared purpose and resilient, dynamic teamwork.

Ultimately, Kerrissey’s frameworks for cultivating a collaborative mindset can be put into practice just one day after an engagement to boost a team’s capacity to innovate and solve problems together. By demonstrating how to apply the science of teaming, Kerrissey offers a path for creating systems and cultures where people speak up to identify problems, innovate and find new ways of accomplishing goals.

“Don’t leave teaming up to chance – draw on the science,” Kerrissey sums up. “If you study the most effective teams doing complex work, you’ll find that they are experts in teaming. They put smart structures and processes in place, and they actively curate their culture. That’s how diverse teams achieve breakthrough results.”

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Michaela Kerrissey, Ph.D., M.S., is on the faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She conducts research on how teams and organizations innovate, integrate, and perform, with a focus on team climates and psychological experiences at work.

Kerrissey has authored over 40 publications on team and organizational topics. She publishes in leading academic journals, such as Administrative Science Quarterly, and in popular outlets, such as Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and NEJM Catalyst. She has received numerous Best Paper awards, including from the Academy of Management and the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research. She is listed on Thinkers50 Radar, a global listing of top management thinkers, and was shortlisted in 2023 for their top award.

She designed the Management Science course at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-teaches an online Teaming course across Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School. She also teaches in multiple executive programs across Harvard University, is Faculty Director for the Elevate Teams course in Corporate Learning and received the Bok Center award for excellence in teaching.

Kerrissey holds a Ph.D. from Harvard Business School, an M.S. from Harvard School of Public Health, and a B.A. from Duke University. She has been a Robertson Scholar, a Hart Fellow, and a Reynolds Fellow. Prior to academia, she was a consulting team leader at The Bridgespan Group, which was launched out of Bain & Company.

Michaela Kerrissey 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®.

Michaela Kerrissey was last modified: May 15th, 2024 by Meg Virag

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Teaming with Intention: Strategies to Enhance Effectiveness and Promote Thriving at Work

Creating a thriving, productive work environment where teams innovate and perform effectively without succumbing to burnout is a challenge for global organizations of all sizes. Harvard Professor of Management Michaela Kerrissey’s compelling approach to collaboration draws from her extensive experience working with experts around the world to deliver a concrete picture of what’s different in a dynamic and participatory team environment. Her research demonstrates how teams can collaborate effectively, even when spread across geographies or facing complexity and pressure. With a focus on the “4 Ups” model that she developed – Speak Up, Listen Up, Team Up and Level Up – her actionable strategies foster a climate of psychological safety that enhances communication and aligns team efforts with organizational objectives. Participants learn how to cultivate environments where teamwork thrives, innovation flourishes and burnout is systematically addressed, all through intentional practice and structured interaction. Kerrissey’s insights empower leaders to build resilient teams equipped to tackle complex problems and achieve sustained success.

Empowering Teams Through Psychological Safety

Psychological safety, the notion that team members can voice ideas and concerns without fear of retribution, is a critical component for team effectiveness across silos, disciplines and geographies. Harvard Professor of Management Michaela Kerrissey brings organizations actionable insights into creating a workplace where speaking up, listening deeply, collaborating and elevating each other becomes the norm. Drawing from her extensive research and teachings, including her work under psychological safety pioneer Amy Edmondson, Kerrissey reveals why psychological safety is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have for teams to innovate, solve complex problems and drive peak performance. Equipped with tools that can be immediately put into practice, leaders come away with the foundational principles of psychological safety and practical steps to cultivate it, transforming their teams into dynamic, resilient and highly productive units.

Solving Complex Challenges with a Joint Problem-Solving Orientation

In the modern knowledge economy, how can a leader encourage experts to quickly solve problems, even when their goals are not fully aligned? Revealing how to cultivate a collective approach to innovation is the focus of Harvard Professor of Management Michaela Kerrissey’s work. Her method for orienting a team around joint problem-solving emphasizes how psychological safety and mutual accountability together drive effective team collaboration. In expertise-driven industries, people must be able to both speak up and team up to solve hard problems. An expert on managing experts, Kerrissey’s approach creates an environment where challenges are viewed not as individual hurdles but as collective opportunities, encouraging teams to co-create solutions even when objectives diverge. Her strategy explores how to develop a “we mindset,” where psychological safety and lean thinking merge to empower teams to speak up, share diverse insights and work together seamlessly across boundaries. Incredibly encouraging, Kerrissey equips leaders with actionable insights for cultivating this mindset within their organizations, enhancing their teams’ capacity to innovate and solve problems together, and fostering a culture of shared purpose and resilient, dynamic teamwork.

How to Make Better Decisions Faster Using Everyone’s Input

Leaders want to harness the full potential of their teams’ diverse expertise, but when it comes to making decisions, their varied experience can at times inadvertently create an echo chamber. Harvard Professor of Management Michaela Kerrissey has developed a method for structuring decision-making processes in multidisciplinary teams that allows for collaborative innovation. She addresses the common information effect – where team members prioritize shared knowledge over novel insights – by proposing a methodical approach to information sharing that encourages every member to contribute unique, critical information. This strategy not only mitigates communication pitfalls but also accelerates the path to groundbreaking innovations by leveraging the strength of diversity. Straightforward and direct, Kerrissey’s method equips leaders with actionable steps to foster an environment where decision-making transcends negotiation, transforming it into a joint problem-solving journey. This helps teams navigate complex challenges more efficiently, leading to decisions that reflect a richer spectrum of perspectives and knowledge.

Cultivating Ideation and Innovation in Diverse Teams

Sustained innovation requires moving beyond the generation of ideas to ensuring those ideas are voiced, evaluated and collectively nurtured. Showing leaders how to create systems that empower individuals to bring forward their ideas fearlessly is Harvard Professor of Management Michaela Kerrissey. She identifies the essential role of voice in the ideation process, drawing on compelling evidence that shows how innovative solutions emerge when team members feel encouraged to identify problems and propose new approaches. Her strategies focus on developing an organizational culture where every idea gets the attention it deserves, transforming potential into breakthroughs. Through her research, she demonstrates how to build an environment that supports ideation and innovation, ensuring that creative insights don’t wither away unseen, and are instead explored and expanded upon. Adaptable to organizations of all sizes and industries, Kerrissey’s approach not only accelerates innovation but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement and adaptive problem-solving.

Cultivating a Culture of Psychological Safety: Tools for Transforming Your Team

An environment of psychological safety is key to maintaining a fast-paced and innovative organization. Harvard Professor Michaela Kerrissey is an “expert on experts” who has designed a data-driven tool that measures and enhances psychological safety across teams in an entire workplace. In this immersive session, Kerrissey imparts a deep understanding of the “4 Ups” of team effectiveness – Speak Up, Listen Up, Team Up, Level Up – while providing participants with a concrete means to assess and develop these crucial aspects within their own teams.

Through highly interactive exercises, real-world case studies and deeply researched insights, participants learn how to effectively embed the principles of psychological safety and joint problem-solving into their team dynamics. Utilizing results from Kerrissey’s  validated scales for measuring process clarity, leader inclusiveness, joint problem-solving and burnout, the workshop includes structured reflection sessions where teams can engage in open dialogue about their strengths and areas for growth. Kerrissey’s direct approach leaves leaders with a clear roadmap to create a culture where trust thrives, innovation flourishes and every team member feels valued and heard.