2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Gillian Ku, London Business School

Gillian Ku

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour

London Business School


Gillian Ku

London Business School professor Gillian Ku loves eBay – professionally. The online auction site allows her to collect valuable information on consumer decision-making. Ku has also applied her interest in auction-related behavior to examination of corporate acquisitions, in which executives can let “competitive arousal” lead them to value the vanquishing of rivals instead of maximizing value. Ku has received teaching awards from LBS, and from the Kellogg School of Management, where she was a lecturer in 2003 while obtaining her PhD there. She’s also received several awards for her research papers. And here’s a bit of Gillian Ku trivia: she went to Pomona College in California – straight out of her sophomore year of high school, and received the institution’s highest academic honor.

 Age: 38

At current institution since: 2004

Education: PhD, Management and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, 2004

MS, Management and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, 2002

AB (cum laude), Psychology, Harvard/Radcliffe Colleges, 1997

Courses currently teaching:

Negotiation and Bargaining (MBA elective)

Negotiations and Influencing Skills for Senior Managers (Executives; co-director of programme with Madan Pillutla)

Managing Organisational Behaviour (MBA core, have taught in previous years, teaching less this year because I’m on maternity leave)

Professor you most admire:

Keith Murnighan (my PhD advisor). Keith epitomizes everything that I admire in a professor – his intellect is daunting, he is incredibly caring for all his students, he is generous, kind, funny, and easy going.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…” I took a class in college about the psychology of decision-making. The ideas blew my mind and resonated very deeply with my own experiences – I realized how bad I was at making good decisions!

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…” I’d be a chef or a dive master.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor:

When I have a lively class discussion – one that is natural and fun and engaging, while communicating an important concept to the class. I love having a good laugh with my class.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

My professional life has two components – research and teaching. From a research standpoint, I am most proud of an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on auctions. This was written with Adam Galinsky and Keith Murnighan and it is one of my favorite collaborations as it was a very intellectually stimulating experience. From a teaching standpoint, I am very proud and honoured to have received the Excellence in Teaching Award at London Business School last year. The award recognizes both my teaching in the classroom and my mentoring of junior faculty (something which is very important to me and part of teaching).

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

Interacting with students and volleying ideas (and quips) back and forth.

What do you enjoy least?

I genuinely enjoy it all!

Fun fact about yourself:

In college, I started off as a Biology/Theatre pre-med student. I eventually graduated with a degree in Psychology…

Favorite book:

East of Eden

Favorite movie:

Too many to pick one!

Favorite type of music:

A friend described my taste in music perfectly: melodramatic and/or maudlin – not sure what that says about me!

Favorite television show:

West Wing (bring it back!)

Favorite vacation spot:


What are your hobbies?

Traveling, cooking, eating, SCUBA diving

Twitter handle:

Don’t have one…

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…” a positive impact not only on businesses but also on governments and societies.”

Students say…

Great professor. Always engaged and willing to share knowledge.

– student survey

Gillian is outstanding, brilliant, helpful and expert. She has amazing insights and a superlative lecturing style. Top notch!

– student survey

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