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Ryan Smerek

Ryan Smerek

  • Associate Professor, MS in Learning and Organizational Change Program
  • Associate Director of Academic Affairs, MS in Learning and Organizational Change Program

Annenberg Hall Room 133, 2120 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208
Curriculum Vitae


Ryan Smerek is passionate about discovering and communicating research-based insights to create positive change in organizations. He has researched, taught, and published in the areas of learning and new executives, decision-making, innovation, and organizational culture. He is the author of “Speaking Up at Work: Leading Change as an Independent Thinker,” where he tells the stories of individuals leading change and synthesizes decades of research in psychology and management.

In his previous book, “Organizational Learning and Performance: The Science and Practice of Building a Learning Culture,” Ryan explains mindsets that foster learning, how “big picture thinking” or understanding the “why” behind our actions fosters learning, and the social norms needed to promote innovation and creativity.

In MSLOC, Ryan teaches classes on individual learning and development, organizational learning, design thinking, cognitive design, and people analytics. Before coming to Northwestern University, he worked at Denison Consulting — a culture and leadership assessment firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  • PhD, University of Michigan, 2009
  • EdM, Harvard University, 2004
  • AB, Dartmouth College, 2000

Selected Publications

Smerek, R. E. (2023). Speaking Up at Work: Leading Change as an Independent Thinker. Business Expert Press.

Smerek, R. E. (2017). Organizational Learning and Performance: The Science and Practice of Building a Learning Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gruber, D. A., Smerek, R. E., Thomas-Hunt, M. C., & James, E. H. (2015). The real-time power of Twitter: Crisis management and leadership in an age of social media. Business Horizons: 163-172.

Smerek, R. E. (2014). Why people think deeply: Meta-cognitive cues, task characteristics, and thinking M. Sinclair (ed.), Handbook of Research Methods on Intuition (pp. 3-14). Edward Elgar.

Nieminen, L., Smerek, R. E., Kotrba, L. & Denison, D. R. (2013). What does an executive coaching intervention add beyond facilitated multisource feedback? Effects on leader self-ratings and perceived effectiveness. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 24(2): 145-176.

Smerek, R. E. (2013). Sensemaking and new college presidents: A conceptual study of the transition process. Review of Higher Education, 36(3): 371-403(Download )

Smerek, R. E. (2011). Sensemaking and sensegiving: An exploratory study of the simultaneous ‘being and learning’ of new college and university presidents. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 18(1): 80-94.(Download )

Smerek, R. E. (2010). Cultural perspectives of academia: Toward a model of cultural complexity. in J. C. Smart (ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, Vol. 25 (pp. 381-423). Springer(Download )

Smerek, R. E. & Peterson, M. W. (2007). Examining Herzberg’s theory: Job satisfaction among non-academic employees at a research university. Research in Higher Education, 48(2): 229-250(Download )