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P&Q 2021 40-Under-40: Oguz A. Acar, City University of London (Bayes)

Oguz Acar is a 2021 Best 40 Under 40 Professor. Courtesy photo

Oguz A. Acar

Reader (Associate Professor)

Bayes Business School (formerly Cass)

Oguz A. Acar is a professor in marketing at City University of London’s Bayes Business School. In addition to teaching marketing, Acar is the Director of the Marketing Strategy & Innovation master’s program at Bayes. With nearly three dozen nominations from students, colleagues, and former students, including Acar in this year’s Best 40 Under 40 Business School professors was an easy decision.

According to some of his nominators, Acar will sometimes open his classes with a guided meditation or playing with Legos building blocks. In addition to his unique approach to classroom teaching, students raved about his empathy and passion that made his classes stand out. A strong researcher, Acar also has nearly 500 Google Scholar citations, mainly exploring the intersection of marketing, innovation, and behavioral science.

“One recent discovery we have made is that crowdfunding is more than just about money—it also has psychological consequences for non-involved consumers (i.e., the entire market of a firm’s potential customers),” Acar says of his research.

Current age: 37

At current institution since what year? 2016

Education: Ph.D., Innovation Management (Rotterdam School of Management)

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Marketing

TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I became one. Joking aside, I think it all started when I was working as an assistant brand manager. I used to consult material from thought leaders (including business professors) to learn more about marketing and get better at tackling the business problems I encountered. This is when I first realized that I enjoy intellectually engaging with business problems and that I was actually more excited to think about boundaries of a solution than simply implementing it to my context.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

My research mainly lies at the nexus of innovation and behavioural science. It focuses on understanding how people create, evaluate and adopt innovative outputs be it a new idea, product or technology. One recent discovery we have made is that crowdfunding is more than just about money—it also has psychological consequences for non-involved consumers (i.e., the entire market of a firm’s potential customers). Specifically, consumers make two inferences about crowdfunded products: (i) they perceive crowdfunded products of higher quality and (ii) they are genuinely concerned about the inequality they perceive in the marketplace and see purchasing crowdfunded products as a way to ‘remedy’ this. Another significant discovery is that people who are outsider to a domain demonstrate greater innovativeness in that particular domain compared to insiders.

If I weren’t a business school professor… Perhaps a photographer. Fun fact: My first publications were of my photography not my academic work

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

This is a difficult one. Not sure really, but the student feedback and evaluations over the years seem to converge on a couple of points: my energy, empathy, innovative in-class activities and inclusiveness of the learning environment where students feel empowered to express their ideas.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Nerves

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It typically takes really long (5 years in the case of my latest publication) to turn your exciting research idea into an article in a leading academic journal. I am not sure whether this would have changed my decision back then, but it would have been better to start with more realistic expectations.

Professor I most admire and why: Jan van den Ende, my Ph.D. advisor. In addition to being a leading researcher in the field of innovation, he is one of the most humble, self-aware, and honest (sometimes brutally) person I have ever met. He also has a brilliant sense of humor. Most importantly, I am grateful to him for seeing a potential in me and supporting me throughout my PhD and beyond.

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

Learning from their diverse experiences and how integrating these experiences into the class makes each session/module unique.

What is most challenging?

Convincing students about the point of an unorthodox learning activity

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

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

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair or demanding probably depending to a certain extent on their grade

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies?

Travelling, photography, doing some form of physical exercise (e.g., walking, running, lifting, playing basketball, boxing), playing with my toddler

How will you spend your summer?

In our garden jumping on the trampoline with the little one and my wife, and hopefully progressing some research projects… Also, if it turns out to be possible (fingers crossed!), some part of it will entail driving across beautiful Aegean coastline of Turkey and spending family time in my hometown Konya.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Somewhere new. I love the thrill of exploring a place for the first time (especially when I have little to no expectations about it – e.g., without reading/watching anything about it in advance) as well as the thrill of spontaneity. For example, right after having my PhD dissertation approved, I have embarked on a long trip across South America with little planning beyond purchasing two tickets—one to my starting point, Rio de Janeiro, and the other one from Bogota to back home— and ended up visiting nine countries along the way.

Favorite book(s): Masnavi (Mevlânâ / Rumi); Notes from Underground (Fyodor Dostoevsky); David Copperfield (Charles Dickens); Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel (George Orwell); The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years (Chinghiz Aitmatov); Tutunamayanlar (Oguz Atay); Ruh Adam (Nihal Atsiz); Samarkand (Amin Maalouf)

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

Tough one! I will go for one of my all-time favorites which I recently watched again: The Fountain (by Darren Aronofsky). Why? It eloquently blends reality and fantasy, and past, present and future in the form of a moving story of love and death. And it is so authentic. What I like most is the way it makes me feel after each time I see it: a bit dizzy, somewhat puzzled, and extremely curious.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

I always find it difficult to answer this question. It’s because, probably unlike many, I really don’t have a favorite genre or artist. I listen to and appreciate almost everything ranging from Jazz and Flamenco to Heavy Metal and Sufi Music depending on my mood.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Stronger emphasis on developing innovative skills of students. Our future (at least in the short- and medium-term) will most likely be characterized by disruptive changes and technological advances at a dazzling speed as well as social and technical challenges at an unprecedented complexity. Navigating such a future requires being able to come up with creative ideas and solve novel problems. To prepare students for this, we need to promote innovativeness by, for example, emphasizing discovery and proactivity over information and reactivity, I think.

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at… empowering people and generating sustainable innovations.

I’m grateful for… all the privileges that I tend to take for granted (despite constantly reminding myself not to)— my family, health, job, friends, colleagues… And this recognition too

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

“Oguz is open-minded, empathetic, joyful and curious. He’s always willing to listen to and offer solutions. He truly cares about what he does and the people he engages with. He is a great person before being a great scholar and this is what makes him stand out.” (Matilde Lucheschi – PhD student)

“Dr. Oguz is one of the best professors I have ever had in my life. I would highly recommend him. He is so knowledgeable and passionate about his work. Throughout his course, I learned a great deal about marketing and innovation which helped me massively in my career. He made the course worthwhile by going beyond what was there in the syllabus to give us true knowledge. He revealed to me my real potential, helped me think outside the box, and made me realize that creativity and innovation in Marketing have no limits.”

“I think Professor Oz deserves credit for his immensely innovative teaching style. I mean how many lecturers out there opens class with meditation? Or invites us to start playing Lego with him? Of course, he doesn’t do these just to be interesting. What I find more impressive is how he can clearly link each of these kinds of creative activities with academic research and practical contexts. I have learned so many practical methods from Oz’s module which I regularly use to tackle complex business problems.”

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