2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Tomasz Obloj, HEC Paris

Tomasz Obloj

Associate Professor of Strategy

HEC Paris

Tomasz Obloj’s academic research is found at the crosspoint between economic theory of incentives, organizational design, and organizational and individual learning. His work on financial incentives has yielded invitations from top global business schools, from Copenhagen and London business schools to Harvard, Wharton, and Olin. Professor Obloj is the Associate Editor of the most prestigious scientific journal in his field, Strategic Management Journal, and in 2015, he was awarded the BNP Paribas Pierre Vernimmen Teaching Award which is the most prestigious teaching award at HEC Paris.

Age: 36

At current institution since: 2011

Education: PhD, Strategy, INSEAD, 2011

List of courses you currently teach: Strategy, Business Simulation, Economics of Strategy, Organizing for Innovation

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I currently study how processes of social comparison affect behaviors in organizations – and in turn what are the implications of these behaviors for firm boundaries. I never expected that envy or compassion have such a first-order effect on what we do and how well we do it.

Professor you most admire: I’ve had the privilege of meeting many great minds that influenced me deeply along my way, such as Laurence Capron, Bruce Kogut, Subi Rangan, Peter Zemsky, Todd Zenger, my father. Those who are my peers or those I haven’t met in person are too many to enumerate here.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…To be very honest I don’t think that I ever fully knew that.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I’d still probably be a social scientist.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Adrenaline

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: There was a week, last year, where I had done 50 hours of teaching in 6 consecutive days. I remember a feeling when it was over and I sat down (with a fellow professor I was teaching with) and I knew that we’ve all done a good job. Both, the students and us.  

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I am proud of every new step I take, publishing an article, seeing my first doctoral students graduate and get good jobs, or becoming an associate editor in a journal I highly respect.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? It is not specific to a business school but I enjoy the freedom it gives me to choose the people I work with, people I like, respect, and admire.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? The times when my calendar fills up too fast and I really want to have more time to write. I also really don’t like giving grades to my students.

What is your favorite company and why? My family and friends. More seriously, I most like the start-ups, firms no-one has heard of yet. Ones that may not make it, but are full of energy and hope.

Fun fact about yourself:  I performed in some of the contemporary dance pieces that my wife choreographed.

Bucket list item #1: I hope I tend to do things I really want to do as soon as I realize I do.

Favorite book: Doctor Faustus

Favorite movie: Only Lovers Left Alive

Favorite type of music: That depends on my mood

Favorite television show: The Wire

Favorite vacation spot: Any place warm, with sea, rocks, and free time

What are your hobbies? Rock Climbing

Twitter handle: I don’t have one

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…more time and space to think and talk about ideas.”

Faculty says…

“Tomasz Obloj is one of the most talented scholars I’ve had the opportunity to work with. A prolific and influential researcher, he became Associate Editor of the most prestigious scientific journal in his field (Strategic Management Journal) only 5 years after having obtained his Ph.D. A dedicated and passionate teacher, he was the recipient of the most prestigious teaching award at HEC Paris, the BNP Paribas – Pierre Vernimmen teaching award, last year. The only question I have about Tomasz is, “what’s next?”