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2018 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Krishna Savani, Nanyang Business School

Krishna Savani

Associate Professor of Strategy, Management, and Organization

Nanyang Business School

In 2014 Krishna Savani received the Outstanding Educator Award by the National University of Singapore Business School. A year later he received the Inaugural Rising Star Award by the Association for Psychological Science. In 2016 he was featured as one of Singapore Business Review’s 18 influential business profs under the age of 40. That same year he received a university-level award, the Nanyang Assistant Professorship Award, becoming the first and only professor in the business school to receive it since the award was created in 2008. To say this Nanyang Business School professor’s record is lengthy and impressive is an understatement. In addition to numerous awards, he’s published 31 original research articles, including 19 in top-tier management and psychology journals and eight alone were published just last year. To top it off, he is beloved by MBA and PhD students alike. Classes with the professor are said to be lively and engaging and he’s particularly applauded for his self-designed teaching technique where he uses in-class survey experiments to give real-time demonstrations of students’ decision-making biases.

Fellow professors also show their admiration for this strategy, management, and organizations expert. Says one lecturer within Nanyang’s business school: “It is rare to find an outstanding researcher who can connect exceptionally with an MBA class. MBA students are not interested in the academic world. They want to know about the world of work. If they find out more about themselves as well, that is a huge bonus! For an MBA Prof “under-40” to be capable of doing this is remarkable.”

Age: 35

At current institution since what year? 2015

Education: (title of degree, area of study, institution and year obtained) PhD in Psychology, Stanford University, 2010

List of courses you currently teach: Managerial Decision Making

Twitter handle: None

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I worked as a research assistant for a professor studying behavioral economics during my undergraduate years. I was fascinated by evidence that very simple changes (e.g., making organ donation the default) can dramatically alter people’s behaviors (e.g., whether they actually decided to donate their organs).

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am studying how asking people to make minor, inconsequential choices, or merely highlighting the idea that they have choices, makes them less empathetic about others and less concerned about inequality.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would probably be an improv actor in NYC.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I am a hard core scientist, and I think students appreciate the scientific perspective that I bring to teaching business courses. That is, instead of describing case studies and research studies, I demonstrate decision making biases in class, live, using the same experimental methods that we use in behavioral science research.

“One word that describes my first time teaching” : 

Nonchalant

As a b-school professor, what motivates you?

The idea that my research and teaching makes a difference in society, among students, and among policymakers.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor”:

It’s not too different from being a physicist.

Professor you most admire and why:

Max Bazerman, because he actually cares about instilling the highest ethical standards in his MBA students.

STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Seeing the look of shock on their face when I show the results of an in-class experiment (e.g., when a minor change in the wording of a question makes a dramatic difference in students’ decisions).

What is most challenging?

Holding on to students’ attention at 9 pm.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student

Curious

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student:

Know-it-all

What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done?

After taking my class, decided to do a PhD in business, but applied to only one business school.

What is the least favorite thing one has done?

Taken pages and pages of notes and received the lowest grade in class.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?

Be mentally present throughout the lecture.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …”

Fair

“But I would describe myself as …”

Lazy

Fill in the blank: “If my students can remember what I taught them 10 years from now, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

Fun fact about yourself:

I have at least 20 different types of Chinese tea in my office.

What are your hobbies?

Improv acting

How will you spend your summer?

Traveling

Favorite place to vacation:

Maldives

Favorite book:

Pride and Prejudice

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

Impractical jokers – it acts as an immediate stress reliever

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

Claude Monet

Bucket list item #1:

Visit every country in south-east Asia (still haven’t visited Brunei)

THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Being the first business professor to receive the Nanyang Assistant Professorship award at my current university.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor?

When an MBA student said, “My boss should take your class”

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…”

Professors who realize that business research is largely applied social science research.

“And much less of this…”

Professors who only care about business, not the larger society

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain.

Using the scientific method to help them make decisions. In my experience, most managers just throw all the scientific concepts that they have learned out of the window as soon as they have finished their MBA.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would look like for you:

Helping a government body make an important policy decision.

Students say…

“Prof is able to conduct on the spot experiment via survey to validate the effect of bias. In addition, he is able to cite useful examples to reinforce the concept. His teaching methodologies enable me to resonate the concepts through real life experiences.”

“Professor Krishna, in spite of being so young himself, handled us all so very well. Never losing his calm, never bothered with our questioning and unending debate of proving us correct, he used a data and fact based approach. He would make us go through an exercise in each class and with the results, he would let us understand and realize our very own biases. Can’t thank him enough for changing me in to a better professional.”

“Apart from being a brilliant teacher and a class apart researcher, he is an amazingly exceptional human being who inspires his students to always aspire for the best. His sharp insight and keen intellect is reflected in his work and his many noteworthy publications. His lab meetings that I always never miss a chance to attend, show me how much more there is to learn and how any idea, no matter how complicated, can be presented and understood in a simplistic and realistic manner. His almost childlike curiosity and intense passion for research motivates me to strive harder every day.”

DON’T MISS: THE WORLD’S 40 BEST BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS UNDER THE AGE OF 40