2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Joshua Becker, UCL School of Management, University College London

Congrats to Joshua Becker of the UCL School of Management, University College London for being named a 2023 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professor.

Joshua Becker

UCL School of Management, University College London

“Joshua is one of the clearest, most brilliant thinkers that I have ever met. In addition, he is a tireless community-builder. Joshua’s research has already been influential across multiple fields. I have seen Joshua organize, teach, and inspire at the Summer Institute for Computational Social Science that we co-organized. He is a gifted teacher who is charismatic, approachable, and explains even difficult concepts with a contagious excitement and insight.” Jeremy Foote, Assistant Professor, Purdue University

Joshua Becker, 37, is an assistant professor at the UCL School of Management, University College London.

Prior to becoming an academic, he worked professionally in communication, including as a volunteer manager and skills trainer in mediation and as a quality assurance manager and trainer in customer service.  

His research focuses on “collective intelligence,” or the ways in which group and organizational design impact performance on tasks such as innovation, decision-making, and forecasting.  His recent research focuses on numeric estimate accuracy in groups — “the wisdom of crowds” — which includes tasks such as forecasting, hiring decisions, market analyses, and product design. 

His work has been published in leading journals including Science, Management Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has been covered in media outlets including Harvard Business Review and Scientific American.  One of his proudest accomplishments is having his discovery of the limitations of group decision-making featured in the Harvard Business Review’s “Guide to Critical Thinking.”

He earned a Best Paper award at the International Conference on Computational Social Science and an Honorable Mention at the Mathematical Sociology section of the American Sociological Association. He won the Ackoff Doctoral Fellowship from The Wharton School.


At current institution since what year?   2020


  • Ph.D., Annenberg School of Communication, University of Pennsylvania
  • BA, History and Philosophy of Science, St. John’s College

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Negotiation & Leadership Decision Making


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … I learned that it’s an opportunity to be a scientist without getting stuck in the ivory tower—not only do I learn constantly from our incredible MBA students, but I also get to be out there in the world, actively promoting the use of effective and inclusive decision tools.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?   I’m currently researching how we can solve “wicked” problems like climate change or healthcare design that involve simultaneously meeting technical challenges while also satisfying multiple stakeholders with competing needs and interests.  This is a brand-new paradigm I’m developing, and the most exciting discovery so far is that we can apply the principles of collective intelligence to complex multi-party negotiations.

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would work in mediation and facilitation. I’m passionate about effective communication!

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?  Two things. First, I am dedicated to student success, taking advantage of my relatively small class sizes to provide close guidance and support. The smaller class size gives me the time to engage with students in a meaningful way, which is different from some of the large-scale classrooms where, as a professor, you can’t give as much attention to each student.  Second, my experience as a mediator and manager gives me a valuable perspective when teaching. One major advantage of this experience is a toolkit of communication methods I’ve honed over years of practice which lends a unique feature to the UCL MBA.

One word that describes my first time teaching:  Chaotic.  (It was with 9-year-olds!)

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:  It’s the best job in the world.  I almost didn’t go this path, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Professor I most admire and why:   The late Ned Smith, my postdoc advisor, because of his incredible generosity and authenticity.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?  Our students have a demonstrated history of success and hard work, and that’s reflected in class discussions which are incredibly engaging and, honestly, interesting for me to participate in. I feel very lucky to be in the room.

What is most challenging? You really have to be on your A-game with these students as they expect and deserve a high level of quality.  If you make a mistake, you’ll find out quickly.

In a word, describe your favorite type of student:  Engaged.

In a word, describe your least favorite type of student:  Absent.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… focused on growth, not evaluation.


What are your hobbies?  Playing mandolin.  Walking book clubs.  The London tech/nerd scene.

How will you spend your summer?  Taking a “castles and cliffs” tour with my wife, attending conferences and summer schools, and just enjoying life in London.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: I’m new in town and excited to explore Europe!

Favorite book(s): War and Peace, Second Epilogue by Leo Tolstoy

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?  Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series.  For the 90s stylings overall, and because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?  I really enjoy Chris Thile because, like me, they are highly interdisciplinary—bluegrass, classical, and an original style.  I try to reflect that in my work and my mandolin playing.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… learning by doing.  Which is, of course, a major emphasis at UCL School of Management. We give our students at all levels the opportunity to take a hands-on approach to learning, offering practical opportunities to put their newfound knowledge to good use, rather than thinking just about the theory. For example, students and staff on the UCL MBA have created the UCL Sustainability Lab, a collaborative, sustainability-focused platform for students and industry partners to tackle grand business challenges and build an impactful link between academia and industry.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… harnessing their full potential by using collective intelligence design principles.

I’m grateful for… the opportunities, people, and sheer dumb luck that have helped me get my dream job at UCL School of Management.



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.