Teresa Amabile

Creativity, Productivity, and the Psychology of Everyday Work Life

About Our Partnership

Teresa’s thoughts on the life/work partnership that she shares with her husband and co-author, Steven Kramer:

People often ask me two sets questions about working with Steve on The Progress Principle and various articles over the years. Here are those questions, and my reflections on them.

1. What’s it like to write a book with your spouse? What was the most difficult part? Did it affect your relationship?
It was really wonderful, and really awful. But if we had to do it again, we would. (Or at least I would!)

Here’s the wonderful part: Sharing the excitement of discovery, bouncing ideas off each other, and drawing on each other’s strengths. Steve is a big-picture thinker, with lots of alternative ideas, constantly speculating about implications. He has sparked some of our best ideas. I am more of a data explorer, putting the pieces together, looking for patterns, testing assumptions, and letting the picture emerge gradually. And, of course, celebrating milestones (progress!) in the project was truly wonderful. At some of our loftiest high points, I (5’2”) would take a running leap at Steve (5’11”) in the living room, for a satisfying belly bump!

And here’s the awful part: We have really, really different work styles. I am more disciplined, organized, and goal-oriented. Steve is more spontaneous, with sporadic flashes of brilliance and goal shifts in interesting new directions. To me, at times, “interesting” was just plain annoying. To him, “organized” was suffocating. So, we had some periodic gnashing of teeth on both sides!

This project – the research and the writing – started when our daughter, Christene, was in high school. She’s now in graduate school, married, and mother to a baby girl! This long-haul undertaking has been a true test of my relationship with Steve, and we have grown to understand and appreciate each other more deeply.

2. How did you two actually interact during the research and the writing?
While doing the research and planning the writing, we talked a lot, usually on our daily walks, but anywhere and anytime, really. Individually and together, we talked a lot to other people in business, academia, and all walks of life. And our extended families were great sounding boards.

During the writing, we did not sit together and write sentences – although we know some coauthors who do! Usually, we would outline a chapter together, specify the research material we wanted to cover, and I would write the first draft. Then Steve would make revisions, pass it back to me for further revision, and so on (often with outside reviewers’ comments in the mix), until we had gone through a dizzying number of drafts!

Often, in the early drafts of the book, we would discover that we needed more data analysis – which Steve would go off and do.

At every step of the way, we had many wonderful people who helped us with the research. There are dozens of names, all important, and you’ll have to look at the Acknowledgements of our book to see them all!