2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: D. Daniel Keum, Columbia Business School 

D. Daniel Keum

Columbia Business School 

“As a strategy professor, he set the foundation for how a business should be viewed. Not just internal, but what are the external factors that cause businesses to succeed or fail. He was able to articulate strategy in a very clear and concise manner which helped me significantly throughout business school and work-related activities. He is also one of the only professors that e-mails his ex-students to give us updates on the cases we covered in his class. He goes above and beyond for his students to ensure we understand business strategy.” – Taylor Atwood

D. Daniel Keum, 38, is an Assistant Professor of Management at Columbia Business School. 

He studies innovation, organizational structure, and labor market policy, along with their applications to public policy formation. He has been published in journals such as Strategic Management Journal and Organization Science.

Prior to academia, he worked at McKinsey & Company for four years. His primary industry experience is in retail, fashion, and corporate portfolio restructuring.

His is the winner of the MK-AKMS Young Scholar Award (2021), Academy of Management TIM Division Best Dissertation Award (2018), and the Harold W. MacDowell Award (2017) awarded to one PhD graduate for dedication to scholarship. He’s also recipient of multiple research grants.


At current institution since what year?  2017

Education: B. Dartmouth College; PhD NYU Stern  

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Strategy Formulation


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I realized as a management consultant I would never have enough time to establish causal relations and move beyond interesting correlations. 

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Others have convincingly shown that CEOs are jerks. I am examining how they also feel guilty and (sincerely and non-strategically) try to do good – with unintended consequences to shareholders and innovation and a tradeoff between new and old employees. 

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would have continued as a management consultant. I found it extremely rewarding to engage with a fresh set of new and pressing business problems while collaborating with interesting colleagues and clients. 

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? The breadth of experience I bring as an ex-McKinsey consultant and a long-time international student who has been educated in the US. 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Over-zealous. 

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: there are many introverts who are beloved teachers. 

Professor I most admire and why: My Ph.D advisor J.P. Eggers for showing me how to stay earnest and make time for others even while achieving success as a researcher, teacher, vice-dean, and father.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The opportunity to meet young, ambitious, and diverse students and be a part of their journey to find their dreams.

What is most challenging? Time management. There are too many interesting voices but only 90 minutes per session.

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

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: dismissive (of other students) 

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… aggressively and intentionally apathetic. Giving grades in a strategy classroom makes so little sense. You would never work on a remotely important strategy problem by yourself, but most grades are based on individual assignments. When it comes to participation, I do not agree with penalizing a student who stays quiet to listen so that their classmates have the chance to speak up.


What are your hobbies? I spend way too much time reading comics and web-novels. 

How will you spend your summer? My newborn son in the left arm, running a statistical package with my right hand while sitting on a bouncing ball. 

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Tokyo for the food, Hawaii for the sea turtles. 

Favorite book(s): Love in the time of Cholera

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Gattaca. Human triumph and determination over genetics and making (and not just finding) one’s own place in society. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? K-pop: it is fun and gives a lesson on how creativity and fashion can be tamed; anything by Bach: his work is structurally perfect. 


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…  (Hogwarts-style) residence halls where 1st year students in the same cluster must live and eat together. Business school is one of the last opportunities to be young and make lifelong friends, and we should do everything we can to support and expand this opportunity. 

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… going back to the basics and focusing on what makes them distinctive and durable. There is this urge to be good at everything in the post-Covid new normal, for example, reaching all customers, satisfying all social values and shareholders while growing revenue AND cutting costs. 

I’m grateful for… the resilience and creativity of my students for the past two years. It was really challenging, but they somehow made everything work – not just the learning part but also friendships. 


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