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2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Jon Jachimowicz, Harvard Business School

Jon Jachimowicz is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professor. Courtesy photo

Jon M. Jachimowicz

Assistant Professor of Business Professor, Organizational Behavior Unit

Harvard Business School

Jon Jachimowicz is an award-winning professor at Harvard Business School. Recently, he’s been wracking up the “Something Under Something” awards, stacking the Forbes 30 Under 30 onto the Capital 40 Under 40 and now our list of the 40 best business school professors in the world under 40 for 2021. The recognitions make complete sense. At just 30 years old, Jachimowicz has nearly 600 Google Scholar citations. More importantly — in our eyes — Jachimowicz earned dozens of nominations from former and current students for his impact inside and outside of the classroom.

“Many people are repeatedly told that the pursuit of passion is important, and the surest path to success… only to discover that pursuing your passion is both really hard and not always beneficial,” Jachimowicz says of his research. “My research focuses on understanding how people can pursue their passion better, finding that the German translation for passion—“Leidenschaft,” literally “the ability to endure hardship”—is often a better way of understanding what it means to do what you love.”

Current age: 30

At current institution since what year? I’ve been at HBS since 2019

Education: Undergraduate degree from the University of St Andrews in 2013; Masters from the University of Cambridge in 2014; Ph.D. from Columbia Business School in 2019

List of MBA courses you currently teach: The Leadership and Organizational Behavior course (LEAD) in the Required Curriculum.

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I never knew this was a career you could do! I tried out a lot of jobs before entering the Ph.D. program—management consulting, venture capital, engineering, prototype test driver (ok, this was my favorite job!), and many more… but nothing really ignited my passion the way learning about business school academia did. It was only after meeting Prof. Jochen Menges (now at the University of Zurich) that I found out this was a thing you could do, and I love the combination of research, teaching, mentoring, & practice, that no other job I tried encompasses.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Many people are repeatedly told that the pursuit of passion is important, and the surest path to success… only to discover that pursuing your passion is both really hard and not always beneficial. My research focuses on understanding how people can pursue their passion better, finding that the German translation for passion—“Leidenschaft,” literally “the ability to endure hardship”—is often a better way of understanding what it means to do what you love.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d probably work a 9-5 and pursue my passion outside of work (dance & teach on2 NY-style salsa)

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? Genuinely trying to understand where my students are at right now—cognitively and emotionally—and what their primary concerns are, so I can pick them up and figure out their journey together.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Passionate/Excited (& a little terrified)

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Effectively this isn’t one job — it’s 20 different jobs, sometimes all at once, and learning how to juggle them is one of the most important skills.

Professor I most admire and why: Prof. Elke Weber (now at Princeton). She’s not only an extremely rigorous researcher who has made groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of decision-making, but has ventured far outside of academia’s Ivory Tower to make a difference in the world (in her case, climate change), getting deeply involved with practitioners, politicians, and even artists. All this at a time when the psychology of climate change wasn’t even a topic that people studied.

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The fundamental (& sometimes paradoxical) tensions students come in with and navigate their time here (& beyond). The combination of uncertainty, exploration, ambition, all the while considering a line from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

What is most challenging? Students and executives often want easy/simple answers, but in most cases I can’t provide them because they don’t exist. The best I can do is provide questions, and a space to debate them with others; this can be frustrating.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Vulnerable

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Disingenuous

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… tough love (high standards & developmental)

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? In non-covid times: salsa dancing, running, hiking, traveling, spending time with family & friends. New in covid times: learning how to produce electronic music and spending time with our puppy (soon!)

How will you spend your summer? Spend time with our new puppy, and hopefully (travel restrictions barring) travel to Germany to see my family

Favorite place(s) to vacation: tough picks — Scottish highlands or Spain

Favorite book(s): Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Being (relatively) new to the US & catching up on some “classics.” Just finished watched The West Wing and really enjoyed getting an insight into how politics were portrayed in the late 90s/early 00’s.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? Will be true to the stereotypes here and go with electronic music — Spotify tells me that Paul Kalkbrenner is among my highest-played artists

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Hands-on experiences and simulations. I love the Everest simulation, where students play together in teams to climb the mountain, learning principles of teamwork and asymmetric information sharing along the way. I also love the new Crafting Your Life simulation co-developed by Prof. Leslie Perlow, and HBP, a 30-minute immersive experience which allows participants to experience the small and big decisions of their future. By navigating the challenges that will arise, students learn to balance trade-offs between valued options in the face of their stated preferences, i.e., how they make decisions in the moment versus what they may believe they would do ahead of time. These kinds of experiences stick with students.

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… understanding the ways in which they both reflect and reproduce the inequalities that exist in the environments they operate in. Organizations are not value-free: they operate in spaces that contain inequality, and their processes may contribute to further exacerbating them. In the future, I hope more companies recognize this responsibility, which also comes with an outsized opportunity they are well-poised for: to work toward addressing and reducing inequalities.

I’m grateful for… the support network that got me to where I am — my partner, family, friends, mentors, colleagues, students, and the many many people behind the scenes that make this all happen. And particularly for Prof. Tsedal Neeley, who an exceptional teacher who spent countless hours showing me how to teach better.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

“Jon is only in his second year as an HBS professor, but he is miles ahead in his career. Quite simply: He is a super-star. Jon and I were in the same PhD program, and it was immediately clear he was miles ahead of the curve in research and presentation. Though I always knew Jon had high potential, he blew away my expectations as a professor in the HBS LEAD core course. He teaches the leadership course in the required curriculum at HBS (a school known for it’s high-bar for teaching excellence, even among top schools). He also helped spearhead the transition of the class online, coordinating a team of 40 people over 3 months. Given his track-record, it is hard to believe that Jon would have any time for research. And yet, he has been one of the most prolific researchers in the OB department at HBS in the last 2 years. Jon is clearly one of the top 40 professors in our field and this recognition would only validate what I already know: Jon is a star!”

“Jon is such an inspiring professor and the most dedicated to students’ success and wellbeing I have ever experienced! His positive attitude has a remarkable impact on students who are grateful to have experienced his teaching. In addition to this he is actively involved by shaping how businesses treat their employees and how to help them to stay passionate about their work. His academic work in the area of inequality and passion is world-leading and he is one of the youngest professors at Harvard Business School at only 30 years of age. He is also a great public speaker and is able to translate academic research into media that attracts the wider public as well.”

“Prof. Jachimowicz managed to create an environment of trust and vulnerability over zoom when we had not even met each other in person. It enabled our cohort to discuss very sensitive topics such as racism, sexism, purpose and family very early on and form strong bonds – Prof. Jachimowicz also created many forums beyond the class-time to grow and discuss other topics. He also gave me very valuable feedback when I was not succeeding academically that has significantly improved my performance during the second semester.”

“Professor Jachimowicz brought so much energy and attention to every detail that his class was one where you always left feeling invigorated and inspired. Professor Jachimowicz raises the bar for a school that already prides itself of being the premiere teaching institution.”

“Professor Jon continuously delivered an outstanding leadership class for our section at HBS. Beyond perfectly adapting to the Zoom environment, he demonstrated an ability to keep our spirits up and energized for class every single day. Outside class, he was extremely generous with his time, helping me address personal challenges by leveraging some of the learnings we got in class.”

DON’T MISS: POETS&QUANTS’ WORLD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSORS OF 2021